Mount Vesuvius erupted in August of 79 A.D. and destroyed the city of Pompeii. The entire city was buried in stones and ash until its rediscovery in the 1740s. Estimates place the death toll at more than 15,000 people.
That eruption of Mount Vesuvius is considered one of the most catastrophic eruptions in human history due to its speed, power and length. The volcano ejected approximately 1.5 million tons of volcanic material per second over a 24-hour period. It spewed deadly gas and ash up to 20 miles high, destroying both Pompeii and Herculaneum. Pliny the Younger provided a detailed account of his uncle Pliny the Elder’s attempt to rescue victims of the eruption, during which his uncle died. He described the eruption as a tree that split off into branches, and he described seeing sheets of fire on the mountain.