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A Shaken Sicily Hit by Quakes

As Mt. Etna erupts for the third day in a row, a series of temblors leaves hundreds of residents temporarily homeless.

October 30, 2002|From Times Wire Services

CATANIA, Sicily — A series of earthquakes rocked this island Tuesday, leaving hundreds of families temporarily homeless as Mt. Etna spewed lava and ash for a third day running.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency for the volcano area, and the Defense Ministry sent in 1,000 soldiers. A ship equipped with a medical clinic was positioned off the city of Catania.

In the town of Santa Venerina, at the foot of the volcano, several people suffered minor injuries as they scrambled for safety, said Carmela Floreno, a civil defense official in Catania.

"We were really lucky that we were outside when it hit," said tearful Santa Venerina resident Maria Lagana. "Nobody was hurt, but can you imagine the terror with all these children around?"

Civil Defense headquarters in Rome said the largest earthquake had a magnitude of 4.4, according to a preliminary reading.

Authorities evacuated about 1,000 people from homes near the volcano until buildings could be checked for structural damage, Floreno said. Residents were given refuge in tents and hotels.

The volcano erupted Sunday, sending streams of lava down the 10,990-foot mountain and causing ash to rain from the sky. The lava and ash activity was less intense Tuesday, but the airport in Catania remained closed for a third day. Schools in Catania and nearby towns were also closed.

Etna is Europe's most active volcano. Its last major eruption was in 1992.

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