Mount Vesuvius

The previous section makes the power of Mount Vesuvius all too frighteningly clear — and the eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum was just the beginning. The volcano has since erupted more than 40 recorded times, most recently in 1944, when it destroyed several villages and dozens of U.S. bomber planes that were staged nearby as part of World War II battle preparations.

Mount Vesuvius is most definitely still classified as an active volcano. Scientists constantly monitor a substantial array of instruments intended to provide advance warning if magma collects and begins to rise underground. It is currently estimated that those instruments would provide a warning time of two weeks before the next eruption — a fact that no doubt helps to ease the minds of the estimated 3 million people who now live within the potential blast radius.

How long would it take to evacuate the people who live near Mount Vesuvius?

The emergency plan calls for a seven-day evacuation of about 600,000 people in the zona rossa — the red zone. One reason the upper part of the volcano was named a national park was to prevent further structures from being built, which kept the number of people in the red zone from growing.

In 1995, the area around Mount Vesuvius was named a national park, and as such it is open to the public with walking trails. You can take a bus from the Ercolano train station and then walk about a half-hour to the rim of the crater. While at the park, you also can visit the Museo dell'Osservatorio Vesuviano, whose website offers not just information about the observatory and museum offerings, but also the latest news about earthquakes and eruptions.

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