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Barricades Stop Lava From Reaching Town

April 25, 1992

ZAFFERANA ETNEA, Sicily (AP) _ Lava poured out of Mount Etna overnight, but a manmade barricade diverted the flow away from this farming town on the slopes of the volcano, experts said Saturday.

″One can say that certainly, for some weeks, Zafferana is safe,″ one volcanologist, Franco Barberi, told RAI television in an interview from a slope of the 12,000-foot mountain.

Since the volcano began erupting in December, molten lava has come to within a half-mile of Zafferana Etnea, a town of 7,000 that produces honey and fruit. Most residents have not been evacuated.

During the night Saturday, an ″enormous quantity″ of lava spewed from a new opening in the mountain, said Barberi.

Barberi and Leterio Villari, another volcanologist, said the opening was almost certainly caused by barricades erected on the mountain’s upper slopes last week by U.S. and Italian soldiers.

The barriers were intended to clog the old openings, and the new one ″came exactly where we wanted it to,″ said Barberi.

Villari added, however: ″We’ve won a battle, but the war is still wide- open.″

During the past three centuries, some of Mount Etna’s eruptions have lasted more than a year. In 1669 the lava reached as far as the city of Catania. The last major eruption, in 1983, lasted 130 days.

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