The volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 for two days, burying the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii under ash and pyroclastic flows, killing an estimated 16,000 people. Vesuvius contains andesite lava, known for its explosive eruptions.
Pliny the Elder wrote about the eruption in detail in two letters written to Tacitus. A large earthquake preceded the eruption in A.D. 62 damaging Pompeii and Naples. Pliny noted that earthquakes were common in the area and unalarming. Earthquakes presaging the A.D. 79 eruption began days earlier but were ignored. Pliny stated that a column rose from the volcano at midday, and, at night, pyroclastic flows began to emerge, estimated by scientists today to be as hot as 572 degrees Fahrenheit.
This Plinian eruption, which refers to large, violent eruptions, created enormous columns of ash, rock and gas over 20 miles in the air and with over 100,000 times the force of the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Casts have been made of 1,044 bodies at Pompeii and 322 around Herculaneum. The volcano has emitted steam near its base in recent years, though as of 2014, Vesuvius has not erupted since 1944, when it caused problems for Allied forces during World War II, including the destruction of planes and the closure of an airbase.