Mt. Vesuvius Said Primed To
Kill Tens Of Thousands
By Robert Matthews
The West Australian
From Holly Deyo

Visitors to Naples are told how Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, killing thousands in Herculaneum and Pompeii and that it has slept quietly since 1944.
What the guides omit to say is that the spectacular volcano rising to 1230 meters to the city's south has been quietly filling with molten rock for 50 years and experts believe it is close to a colossal eruption capable of killing tens of thousands of people in minutes.
Vulcanologists probing the area with electric currents have found a huge rock plug jammed in the 30 metet conduit of the volcano, like a stopper in a champagne bottle.
Many believe that when this "cork" goes pop it will release a searing cloud of superheated ash and poisonous gas known as a pyroclastic flow, like that described by Pliny the Younger in his account of the killer flow from Vesuvius 1900 years ago as: "a dark and horrible cloud ... coming up behind us as we were fleeing, spreading over the earth like a flood." But it took the explosion of Mt. St Helens in Washington State of the United States in 1980 to show the accuracy of Pliny's report.
Computer simulations of Mr. Vesuvius present a more terrifying picture. Once the rock plug gives way, a cloud of molten rock, ash and gas will be blasted about 1.5 kilometers into the sky.
Once the heat from the initial blast subsides, the cloud will swoop down and flow along the ground at speeds upwards of 160 kilometers and reach the 100,000 population of Torre del Greco in less than four minutes and the outskirts of Naples with its three million people five minutes later.
But the Italian Government is anxious to avoid panic. Its Vesuvius commission produced an emergency plan in 1995 which provides for evacuating 700,000 people living in the high-risk areas in a week. Many condemn this as hopelessly optimistic.
Its most vehement critic is Flavio Dobran, a former professor of vulcanology at the universities of Rome and Pisa, who claims to have lost his job after refusing to toe the off1cial line on the size of the risk from Mt. Vesuvius.
Dr. Dobran says next eruption of Vesuvius could, in minutes, destroy everything in an 8km radius of the volcano a region of a million people. Monitoring shows that 16 kilometers west of Vesuvius subterranean stirrings have pushed up the surface 8m in the past 30 years, suggesting wider instability in the region.

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