Finally, on the morning of August 24th, 79 A. D. the volcano burst open with an earsplitting crack. Smoke, mud, flames and burning stones spewed from the summit of the mountain, sending a rain of ash and rock through the surrounding countryside. The mud seeped down the sides of Vesuvius, swallowing nearby farms, orchards and villas. Adding to the destruction were the mephitic vapors that accompanied the falling debris; the fumes first caused deliriousness in their victims, then suffocated them.
Some people of Pompeii grabbed their beasts of burden and attempted to flee the area; others perhaps chose to wait until the streets were clear of the panicked masses; still others sealed themselves up in rooms, supposing that the ashes and poisonous gasses would not harm them there.