Streams Of Lava Flow Down
Earthquake-Shaken Etna

Italy Scrambles Water-Planes To Stem Etna Flows
By Tony Gentile

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 the volcano.
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 Musumeci.
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 fire spread.
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 high.
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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