Europe’s tallest active volcano has been spewing lava for three weeks — and now its raining stones and ash on the villages below

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Europe’s tallest active volcano has been spewing lava for three weeks — and now its raining stones and ash on the villages below
The tenth big explosion to rock Italy's Mount Etna has a massive fallout of ash and small lava stones causing damage to cars, especially in in the village of GiarreIl Mondo dei Terremoti/Twitter
  • Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano, let out its tenth big blast in the last three weeks on March 7.
  • The eruption led to lava stones and ash raining down on the Silician towns located on its slopes.
  • The governor of Sicily Nello Musumeci has declared a state of emergency in the most affected villages.
Italy’s famed active volcano, Etna, has been spewing lava for over three weeks. On Sunday, March 7, the fiery mountain on the eastern coast of Sicily let out its tenth big blast of the season since February 16. Only this time, it also rained down ash and small lava stones on the town nearby.


At nearly 3,324 meters above sea level, Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe. According to Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology ( INGV), the giant exploded at approximately 2:00 am local time, pushing the column of ash and lava to a height of 10,000 metres.

The lava down below did not change direction and continues to flow from the southeast crater — down the side of the volcano that does not house any residents. “This activity is still ongoing and the INGV is constantly monitoring its development,” the agency said in a statement.
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Europe’s tallest active volcano has been spewing lava for three weeks — and now its raining stones and ash on the villages below
Roads covered in volcanic ash after the Mount Etna's eruption on March 7Il Mondo dei Terremoti/Twitter

However, the blast did result in ash and small lava stones causing damage to eight villages along Etna’s slopes. Sicily’s governor Nello Musumeci has declared a state of crisis in the most affected regions, according to a local news outlet Tg2.

One of these regions is Giarre, where the photos show streets covered in ash and lava stones that broke through windows. According to Musumeci, new vehicles will be brought in to help clear the roads.

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The lull before the storm
There is nothing new about Etna spewing out volcanic ash, molten rocks and lava. On this day, in 1669, an eruption at Mount Etna killed 20,000 people.

However, this time something is different. According to INGV’s Marco Neri, Etna’s most recent explosions have been “most violent in the Southeast Crater's young history.”

Europe’s tallest active volcano has been spewing lava for three weeks — and now its raining stones and ash on the villages below
A glowing plume of volcanic fumes spotted over Italy using VIIRS day-night band data from the Joint Polar Satellite System and Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey on February 23

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As long as the eruptions remain at the current intensity and lava comes from the summit rather than the sides of the volcano, the risk to surrounding communities is small. But history shows that periods of intense activity are almost always followed by lateral eruptions that open up mouths on the flank of the volcano — sometimes at low elevations.

“That means there is a concrete possibility that lava could directly affect an urbanised area, as has happened numerous times in the past,” said Neri. In 1983, engineers used dynamite to divert lava away from homes. And, in 1992, the army had to build an earthen wall to protect one of the village’s on Etna’s slopes.

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