One person has died and several tourists are believed to be missing after a massive volcanic eruption on the Italian island of Stromboli.
Visitors and residents fled in terror as a huge plume of smoke filled the skies above the tiny Mediterranean island last night – sending hot magma spilling down the mountain.
Emergency services rushed to the scene as the powerful explosion ignited fires on the western side of the island.
Firefighters were battling the flames today.
A male hiker who was hit by a falling stone was confirmed dead by authorities, while other people were injured.
The victim was a 35-year-old man from Sicily who was hiking when the volcano erupted twice.
Around 30 holidaymakers, including a number of Brits, reportedly jumped into the sea for safety as the lava sparked fires.
Several others are believed to be missing.
Alana Elliot, 31, from east London, was sunbathing when she heard the deafening boom.
She then saw a “big mushroom cloud that looked like a nuke” and started to panic when staff on the quiet cove in Malfa started “running for their lives”.
The lawyer from Bethnal Green told the Sun she and her fiance “heard a really loud boom as though thunder and lightning had struck right next to us and saw people running along the beach.”
“You can see Stromboli from the bay and there was a big mushroom cloud erupting – it looked like a nuke,” she explained.
“A barman ran down and was speaking Italian to us. We thought he was saying ‘Be calm it’s OK’ but actually he was saying ‘Get out of here – but be calm’.
“We realised it was a big deal when the locals started to freak out and were running for their lives.”
Student Luca Mariani, 14, from Rome, filmed the moment the smoke cloud towered over the island-volcano.
He said: “I had never seen something like this. I didn’t know whether to be scared or excited.”
Fiona Carter, a British tourist on the island of Panarea, some 17 miles from Stromboli, also heard the eruption.
“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra,” she said.
“The cloud got bigger, white and grey. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli,” she added.
Stefano Branca, an expert with the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology, said there had been a “paroxysmal eruption” on the island, when high-pressure magma explodes from a shallow, underground reservoir.
“These are events of great intensity and quite rare,” he told Reuters.
Stromboli is known as the “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean” and has a population of around 500.
The last major eruption was in 2002, when a blast destroyed local buildings and piers, injuring six.
Tourists often climb to the 3,000-foot summit of the volcano and peer into its crater, with small puffs of molten rock regularly blasted into the sky. It was not clear if anyone was on the crater at the time of the blast.
According to the geology.com website, Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet and has been erupting almost continuously since 1932.
The island was the setting for a 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and, with other islands in the Aeolian archipelago, has become a favourite location in recent decades for holiday homes for the rich and famous.
SHARE THIS POST