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Sicily's Mt. Etna Erupts; 1 Man Injured by Rock

July 19, 2001|From Times Wire Services

ROME — Sicily's Mt. Etna, Europe's most active volcano, erupted Wednesday, forcing emergency services workers to build up defenses against a lava flow moving at 500 feet an hour.

After days of tremors, lava spewed out of a new fissure in the volcano early Wednesday at a height of 6,900 feet. Ash and smoke have been billowing out of Etna and over eastern Sicily for the last five days.

One man needed hospital treatment after he was hit by a rock thrown out of the volcano.

Emergency workers evacuated two restaurants and built up mud walls to guide the direction of the lava flow, while firefighters sprayed the magma with water.

The lava has flowed down an uninhabited slope and has not threatened any homes. It did cut across a main road, however.

The man who was injured had ventured into a restricted area on the volcano closed off for safety reasons, an employee at one of the closed restaurants said.

Etna, which looms over the city of Catania, has been spouting small amounts of lava, ash and smoke intermittently since January 2000 but has not erupted strongly enough to force villages around its slopes to evacuate.

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

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