Tourists narrowly escape as Mount Etna spews molten rocks

Thousands of tourists visit the area on Sicily's east coast each year, but injuries are rare.

Salvatore Allegra/AP
Smoke billows from the Mt. Etna's volcano, near Catania, in Sicily, southern Italy, on Thursday, March 16, 2017. Volcanic rocks and steam injured at least 10 people, including tourists and a scientist, following an explosion on Sicily’s Mount Etna Thursday, witnesses and media reported.

Thirty-five tourists, their guides, and BBC film crew escaped serious injury after they were forced to turn and run down Sicily’s Mount Etna, pelted from above by potentially deadly, searing debris.

The group had come to witness one of the world’s most frequently erupting volcanoes, when a phreatic explosion, caused when lava hit thick snow, sent up a billow of steam followed by “boiling rocks and boulders” that began raining debris on the group as it retreated through “whiteout” conditions, according to BBC journalist Rebecca Morelle, whose camera woman kept it rolling throughout the ordeal.

The new lava flow, which began two days ago, likely topped 1,000 degrees Celsius, or 1,832 degrees F., in temperature.

The guides with the group helped escort the tourists to safety after the explosion began at around midday on Thursday, authorities said.

Some in the group had items of clothing burned all the way through by the falling debris, and four people were hospitalized but none of the injuries were reported “grave,” the Associated Press reported.

The president of the Italian Alpine Club chapter in Catania, Umberto Marino, was traveling up the volcano in a snowcat when injured people started running back toward him.

Standing at 11,000 feet, Etna is Europe’s largest volcano and erupts frequently and with little warning through any of its many vents. Residents, along with thousands of visitors each year, sometimes catch spectacular views of fountains of lava shooting into the night sky.

The earliest local records of Etna’s volcanic activity date back to 1500 B.C.

As a result of Thursday’s eruption, officials said flights arriving at Catania airport would be halved to five an hour because of ash clouds, but departures would continue uninterrupted.

Even though Etna is hyperactive, injuries to tourists visiting the volcano on the eastern coast of Sicily are rare. Authorities limited access to Etna’s more dangerous areas after nine tourists were killed there in 1979.

The group involved in Thursday’s incident were in a zone where people were permitted if accompanied by a guide.

Italy's volcanology institute is continuing to monitor the situation.

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Tourists narrowly escape as Mount Etna spews molten rocks
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/2017/0317/Tourists-narrowly-escape-as-Mount-Etna-spews-molten-rocks
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe