- CATANIA, Italy (Reuters)
- Italian rescue teams scrambled water-carrying planes and dug ditches
Monday to try to stem rivers of boiling lava flowing from Mount Etna after
a series of earthquakes awakened Europe's most active volcano.
- While the snaking tongues of magma remained a safe distance
from settlements on the mountain, fears were raised Monday after a fresh
tremor measuring 3.8 on the Richter scale struck almost directly beneath
- At the weekend, Italy's National Institute of Geophysics
and Volcanology measured more than 100 small quakes measuring 1.1 to 3.5
on the Richter scale.
- Residents of Linguaglossa, a popular ski town whose name
means "big tongue of lava," nervously eyed the glowing rocks
and boiling liquid streaming down the mountain.
- "What can I say? Just look at it. My heart's bleeding,"
mayor Felice Stagnitta told Reuters Television.
- Graziella Pappalardo wept on a friend's shoulder, as
she realized her family restaurant "Racabo Refuge" up the mountain
had been engulfed in lava.
- "The emergency services are a mess, the lava has
already arrived here, they're just a mess," she said, blinking back
tears as Etna roared behind her.
- However, the regional president urged calm, saying the
situation was under control and there was no need for alarm.
- "At the moment there are no problems for any inhabited
areas, although Etna's tourist trade is now in crisis," said Nello
- HEIGHT OF TELEGRAPH POLE
- Civil protection officials estimated the two lava rivers
edging toward Linguaglossa were up to 400 yards wide and 20 feet high --
the height of a telegraph pole.
- Three water-spraying planes flew throughout Monday, trying
to cool the red-hot lava stream and extinguish blazing trees before the
- Rescue workers dug ditches with bulldozers to stem the
lava's destructive descent.
- Although Linguaglossa and its 6,000 inhabitants are some
distance from the lava, town officials took no chances, closing schools
for the next two days. The local priest said he was keeping the church
open to allow residents to pray.
- Etna's eruptions began in the early hours of Sunday,
after several small earthquakes shook the eastern edge of Sicily and parts
of mainland Italy. The epicenter was identified as just one mile southeast
of the center of Etna's crater.
- The volcano, Europe's highest at 10,900 feet, pumped
out huge dark clouds of ash and spurted fountains of magma 300 to 600 feet
- So far there have been no deaths or injuries, although
the lava flow has swallowed buildings, knocked down power lines and pushed
over ski-lift pylons.
- Italian scientists warned Monday the level of volcanic
activity was still "very intense" and a mushroom cloud of smoke
hovered ominously over the crater.
- Meanwhile in Catania, Sicily's second-largest city which
sits in Etna's shadow, doctors warned residents to protect their eyes from
flaming particles of volcanic ash.
- The main airport looked set to stay closed for the rest
of the day, with flights redirected to Sicily's capital Palermo.
- And as choking ash clouds swirled about the streets,
Catania's mayor banned motorbikes and scooters and waived bus fares so
people could move about the city safely.
- Etna is almost constantly rumbling, but has not produced
any serious activity since a series of eruptions in July and August last
year, which experts described as one of the most erratic and complex displays
in 300 years.
- Its last major explosion was in 1992.
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