Spectacular Stromboli eruption sends people fleeing for cover

A volcano on the island of Stromboli erupted, sending smoke more than a mile into the air.

Posted: Aug 29, 2019 2:40 AM
Updated: Aug 29, 2019 2:40 AM

A spectacular explosion from an Italian volcano Wednesday sent locals and tourists running for cover to avoid a shower of rocks and ash.

The eruption of Stromboli, on a small island off the coast of Sicily, sent a gigantic plume of smoke billowing into the sky.

Firefighters reported that widespread vegetation fires had broken out. Burning material from the explosion fell from the crater and rolled down to the sea, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said the explosion could be classified as a "paroxysmal event" and produced a pyroclastic flow -- a fast-moving mixture of gas, rock and volcanic ash -- of several hundred meters into the sea. It added that the smoke plume reached a height of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

Elena Schiera, a 19-year-old from Palermo, Sicily, was on a sailing boat when the volcano erupted. She captured the boat's nail-biting escape from the pyroclastic flow on her phone camera.

"We were sailing at a safe distance as per ordinance, when all of a sudden we heard a loud bang and saw a large black cloud spewing out of the Stromboli crater and pouring into the sea," she told CNN.

"We immediately increased the speed of the boat to the maximum, even though, being a sailboat, the speed was still limited. Then the cloud arrived at sea and began to advance quickly towards us," Schiera said. "At that moment the panic broke out because we had the cloud a few meters away from our stern, but thanks to my father who was at the helm we managed to get away just in time because then the cloud started to rise again."

No injuries were reported from the eruption.

"I was sitting at the bar in Ginostra with my mother, drinking a cup of coffee when we heard a massive boom and subsequently the volcano explosion," Federica Manna, a Stromboli resident, told CNN. "We all gathered in the square and after a short time it started to rain sand and stones. You can imagine the chaos. We sheltered in a church under the beams because we feared there was an earthquake."

Manna said firefighters' sea planes were putting out the fires caused by the explosion and boats were available for anyone who wanted to leave the island. "I personally have decided not to leave and stay here," she said.

"The situation is under control," Marco Giorgianni, mayor of neighboring Lipari island, told La Repubblica. "I alerted civil protection anyway and banned the docking of non-public transport boats."

On July 3, another explosion at Stromboli killed a hiker, 35-year-old Massimo Imes, according to the ANSA news agency.

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