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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 17:22 GMT
Etna villagers flee homes after quake
Etna belches smoke and fire
Inhabited areas are not currently threatened
An earthquake accompanying the eruption of Sicily's Mount Etna has forced 1,000 people from their homes.

Hundreds of tremors have been registered since the eruption began on Sunday, but Tuesday's was the largest, at 4.3 on the Richter scale.

It was followed by two more quakes registering 3.6 and 4.0, adding to the panic of local villagers.

More than 100 homes were damaged in Santa Venerina, and holiday hotels have been requisitioned to accommodate the displaced families.

Open in new window : In pictures
Etna rumbles on

Meanwhile, two streams of lava are continuing to flow down the southern and northern slopes of the volcano.

Smoke and ash drift south - seen from space
Ash drifting south, as seen from space
Residential areas are not threatened but tourist facilities have been swallowed up, and acres of pine forest have been consumed by fire.

The Italian Government is meeting on Tuesday night to discuss demands by regional officials for a state of "natural disaster" to be declared.

Etna is a popular skiing area, and the season would normally be beginning soon.

Ski lifts on the southern side of the volcano were swamped by lava last year.

Those on the northern slopes have already been damaged by this latest eruption.


Emergency workers have been digging channels in the earth in an attempt to divert the northern flow away from the town of Linguaglossa.

Schools in the town have been shut down, although the church has remained open for people to pray.

Apart from Santa Venerina, Tuesday's earthquake also affected the villages of Giarre, and Zafferana Etnea.

Civil defence official Enrico Galeani said some people had been slightly injured.

The airport outside the city of Catania remained closed on Tuesday for a third day.

Restaurant swallowed

Ash has been falling continuously on the city, and drifting across the Mediterranean as far as Libya.

Europe's most active volcano has been throwing magma more than 100 metres (330 feet) into the air, in a spectacular display.

The lava has swallowed buildings, including at least one restaurant, knocked down power lines and pushed over ski-lift pylons.

Mount Etna has had four major eruptions in the last 309 years.

Vulcanologists have warned that it is gradually becoming more explosive and more dangerous.

Etna is almost constantly rumbling, but had not erupted since July and August last year, which experts described as one of the most erratic and complex displays in 300 years.

Its previous big eruption was in 1992.

Map of the region

The BBC's Sangita Myska
"This eruption is ferocious"
See also:

27 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
29 Aug 01 | Europe
27 Jul 01 | Europe
01 Apr 00 | Science/Nature
31 Mar 00 | Science/Nature
15 Mar 00 | Europe
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