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Earthquakes Hit Italian Volcano

November 24, 2002

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CATANIA, Sicily (AP) _ A thick river of lava flowed toward a hikers and tourist refuge on the slopes of Mount Etna after three earthquakes _ two of them five minutes apart _ rocked the region Sunday and sent residents fleeing their homes.

``The shaking was violent, the walls shook for what seemed like an infinitely long time,″ Enrico Pappalardo, mayor of the mountainside town of Santa Venerina, told the Italian news agency ANSA.

Tourists and the curious coming up the road to the refuge were turned back, and shopkeepers hurried to remove goods from the sidewalks in front of their stories should the lava hit the complex.

No one was injured and no buildings were damaged in the quakes on the easterm Sicilian volcano.

The first quake registered magnitude-2.7 and was followed by a 3.7-magnitude tremor, said the National Institute of Geophysics.

Four hours later, the mountain shook sharply from a 3.0-magnitude quake, the institute said.

Soldiers working with bulldozers and dump trucks loaded with dirt and boulders constructed a protective wall around the refuge as the lava advanced to within a quarter-mile of the complex

Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, began its most recent eruptions Oct. 27, spewing rivers of lava and belching out columns of thick ash and smoke that closed the nearby Catania airport for days.

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