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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 22:16 GMT

World: Europe

Etna threatens blow-out

Mt Etna has erupted hundreds of times

Scientists fear the possibility of a major eruption after a build-up of activity on Sicily's Mount Etna.

Caroline Turrif reports on pictures of the the lava flow
Breathtaking images captured by a camera crew show lava flowing out of a crack along the northeastern side of the volcano.

According to experts, the new crack suggests the volcano - Europe's tallest and most active - is changing shape.

[ image: There is not thought to be any immediate danger]
There is not thought to be any immediate danger
Etna - named after the ancient Greek word for "I burn" - is monitored closely for any signs of danger. There is not thought to be any imminent danger to nearby towns and villages.

There was a series of eruptions on Etna in January which showered local villages with ash but caused no damage or injuries.

Some believe this may be a prelude to the volcano's first significant eruption in six years.

Etna facts

  • Last major eruption was in 1993 when two streams of lava threatened the village of Zafferana.
  • Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe at more than 10,000 ft (3,200 m).
  • Greeks legends say Etna was the workshop of Hephaestus and the Cyclops. Underneath the giant Typhon lay, making the Earth tremble when he turned.
  • Etna covers an area of 600 square miles
  • Geologists estimate it to have been active for more than 2,500,000 years.
  • The 1669 lava flow destroyed 12 villages and submerged part of the town of Catania.
  • Activity was almost continuous in the 1970s.
  • The volcano has had more than one active centre.
  • In 1983 authorities exploded dynamite to try to divert lava flows.
  • Over 6,500 ft (2,000 m), the mountain is covered with ashes and lava.

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