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Mt Etna, Sicily (MEDC)
Mount Etna is the highest (3,310m) and the most active volcano in Europe, with the volcanic
history stretching back over 5,000 years.
It is estimated that nearly 25% of Sicily's population live on the slopes of Mt Etna.
Mt Etna has been classified as a Decade Volcano, due to its activity and nearby population.
There have been at least 60 flank eruptions and many summit eruptions since AD1600.
Since 2001 Mt Etna has seen an eruption every year.
Mt Etna is on a destructive plate margin and its volcanism stems from the subduction of the
African plate beneath the Eurasian plate.
The deformation of the plates associated with subduction allows magma to rise to the surface
through weaknesses of the crust.
The nature of the Volcanic Hazard
Mt Etna has a wide range of eruptions from relatively minor to majorly explosive.
Mt Etna is a composite stratovolcano.
It usually erupts basaltic lava, which has a low viscosity and so is able to travel
Aside from the main vent, fissures open up releasing lava flow from a variety of
locations and `hornitos' (small parasitic cones) splatter lava from the side of the cone.
Other Potential Hazards:
Seismic activity connecting with eruptive activity: potentially serious damage
caused to buildings and public infrastructure around the volcano.
Gas plume emission, volcanic dust and ashfalls: High magnitude explosive events at
summit craters can lead to the formation of eruptive columns of ash, the fallout from
which presents significant problems to settlements and agriculture, and also risks for
road and air traffic.
Flank collapse before or following: one of the most hazardous processes that can
occur at a volcano is a collapse of one of its flanks, leading to a huge avalanche of
Phreatic eruptions: These are stream-driven explosions that occur when water
beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma or lava, generating an
explosion of steam, water, ash blocks and lava bombs.
The impact of the event
It is estimated that 77 confirmed deaths can be attributed to eruptions on Mount
Etna, and in recent years there have been few fatalities.
The eruption of 2002 completely destroyed the tourist station at Piano Provenzana
and part of the tourist station around the Rifugio Sapienza.
On 29th July 2002, the airport of Sicily's second city, Catania, was forced to close
while the runways were cleared of ash. This then caused the winter tourist industry to
be affected as visitors stayed away due to safety concerns.
The eruption caused clouds of gas and ash to be expelled from vents in the volcano
which lead to the airport in Catania being closed for 4 days because of the effect of
ash on engines. Ash fell onto the city of Catania and reached Libya.
Magma was thrown over 100m into the air and ran quickly down the mountain.
Residential areas (e.g. Linguaglossa) were evacuated due to the threat of lava
resulting in 1000 people having to leave their homes. Local authorities used holiday
homes to rehouse these people.
The tourist industry was devastated with skiing areas being damaged by the lava flow. A restaurant
was destroyed and ski lifts were pushed over. Hundreds of hectares of forest that covered the
sloped of Mount Etna were destroyed.
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Ski schools had to
close for years because of the lava and ash meaning many people had to leave the island to find
On 4th September 2007 a violent eruption from the South-East crater saw lava spewing up to 400m
into the air, where strong winds sent ash and smoke into the towns below.…read more