Mount Etna Erupts, Killing and Injuring Tourists
CATANIA, Sicily (AP) _ Ashes, gases and tons of rocks shot from Mount Etna and showered tourists near the snow-covered summit of Europe’s tallest volcano Friday, killing an 8- year-old boy and his mother, officials reported.
The eruption injured seven others in the group of 30 French, Italian and German tourists, but none was in serious condition, said police in this city on Sicily’s eastern coast. The two killed were French.
Rescue workers had to drive over snow-covered trails to reach the group. Helicopters were unable to land because of heavy fog.
The Civil Defense Ministry in Rome said the eruption came without warning and may have been caused by snow melting into craters, forming an explosive cocktail of vapors and volcanic gas.
″That type of phenomenon is very difficult to predict,″ said a ministry statement.
The tourists were walking with a guide when the eruption occurred on the southeastern slope at 9,900 feet, nearly at the summit of Mount Etna.
In recent weeks, experts have noted an increase in earth tremors and other volcanic activity on the slope. The last eruption was 120 days ago.
Visitors can reach the upper slopes by four-wheel drive vehicles, but Renato Cristofolini, a volcanologist in Catania who monitors Etna’s activity, said, ″Tourists are warned not to go near the craters.″
In 1979, nine tourists were killed in a similar accident. They had made an excursion to the rim of the volcano, when ash, gas and hot rocks spewed out and showered the group.
Police closed the trails for a while, but they were later reopened.
The Civil Defense Ministry identified the dead as Danielle Prevot, 41, and her son, Pierre Henri Prevot, 8.
Her husband, Marc Prevot, 42, an employee of the French Embassy in Rome, and sons, Ugo, 12, and Alex, 15, were admitted to a hospital.
Another French tourist, a West German and two Italians were also injured.
Etna’s beauty - a huge black cone which can be seen 150 miles away - attracts tourists from all over the world. The volcano has devasted Catania in the past, the last time in 1669 when the lava flow reached the sea.