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A new study, led by vulcanologist Giuseppe Mastrolorenzo from the Naples Observatory in Italy, shows that the residents killed in Pompeii and the neighboring towns located on the slopes of the volcano died from an extreme heat surge produced by the volcano, not suffocation.
The blazing heat wave could have traveled up to 12.4 miles from the volcano. Taking this into account, the current plan to evacuate a five-mile radius around in the event of another eruption seems entirely insufficient. The city of Naples sits outside this zone, for example, but it is only 6.2 miles away.
Mastrolorenzo believes the victims of Pompeii were killed during a single heat surge from the fourth pyroclastic surge. A few seconds' exposure to the intense heat was enough to kill the villagers immediately. Being inside provided no shelter.