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Mount Etna erupts, lava flow threatens roads

ROME, July 18 (Reuters) -

Sicily's Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, erupted on Wednesday, forcing emergency services to build up defences against a lava flow moving at 150 metres (500 feet) an hour.

After days of tremors, lava spewed out of a new fissure in the volcano in the early hours of Wednesday morning at a height of 2,100 metres (6,900 feet). Ash and smoke has been billowing out of Etna and over eastern Sicily for the past five days.

But the lava has not threatened any homes, as it flowed down an uninhabited slope.

Emergency services evacuated two restaurants and built up mud walls to guide the direction of the lava flow, while fire-fighters sprayed the seething magma with water.

"The lava flow has cut across (one) main road," said a spokesman for a vulcanology institute based in the western Sicilian town of Catania at the southeastern base of the volcano. "It is heading towards the southwest and experts are working up there to monitor its progress."

Etna, which looms over Catania, has been spouting small amounts of lava, ash and smoke intermittently since January last year, but has not erupted strongly enough to force villages around its slopes to evacuate.

The last eruption which posed a threat was in 1992 when lava streams headed towards Zafferana, a town of 7,000 people nestling on Etna's lower slopes. The Italian military had to use controlled explosions to divert the flow.

-- PHO (, July 18, 2001


Mt. Etna Lava Reaches Sicily Road

.c The Associated Press

CATANIA, Sicily (AP) - Lava spewing from Mount Etna, one of Europe's most active volcanos, reached a rural road in eastern Sicily on Wednesday and injured a hiker.

The hiker was hurt following a sudden explosion of lava and was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Catania, the ANSA news agency said.

Two restaurants near the flaming lava's path were evacuated and a nearby hotel area was cleared out as a precaution, RAI state television said.

The volcano started spitting out ash and lava last week after a series of hundreds of small earthquakes rocked the region. On Wednesday, officials tried to build up an embankment of earth and asphalt to block the lava's spread.

``As of yet, there is no danger to residential centers, but the lava is heading toward Nicolosi,'' said Salvatore Moschetto, the mayor of Nicolosi, 10 miles from the main eastern city of Catania. ``We are doing everything to avoid danger to the population.''

Etna's last major eruption was in 1992. But the volcano springs back to life every few months, and its slopes are closely monitored for quakes that could indicate an increase in volcanic activity.

AP-NY-07-18-01 2115EDT

-- PHO (, July 19, 2001.

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-- John clives (, April 21, 2002.

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