Pompeii heat blast brought death at six miles
Published 25/10/2010 | 05:00
THE people of Pompeii who died when Vesuvius erupted nearly 2,000 years ago were killed by intense heat rather than suffocation, according to a new study.
Thousands of the Roman city's inhabitants were caught in a firestorm in which they were exposed to temperatures of up to 1,112F (600C), a team of Italian scientists believe. The temperatures would have killed people in just 10 seconds, according to the volcanologists from Naples, the city overshadowed by the volcano.
"Contrary to what was thought up until now, the victims didn't suffer a prolonged agony from suffocation, but rather died instantaneously from the exposure to high temperatures," the team wrote in science journal, PLoS ONE.
Red-hot clouds of gas and fine ash flowed down the slopes of Vesuvius, engulfing Pompeii's villas, as well as its shops, public baths and brothels, where explicit erotic paintings and the customers' graffiti can still be seen.
Field and laboratory study of the eruption products and victims indicate that heat was the main cause of death of people previously supposed to have died by ash suffocation," the scientists said."Our results show that exposure to at least 250C (482F) hot surges at a distance of 10 kilometres (six miles) from the vent was sufficient to cause instant death." (© Daily Telegraph, London)