Santa Venerina (Italy), Oct. 29 (Reuters): A new quake rocked Sicily today, leaving hundreds of panicked families temporarily homeless, as nearby Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, spewed lava and ash for the third day running.
The tremor, which registered 4.4 on the Richter scale, jolted the town of Santa Venerina, southeast of Etna, at about 11 am (1000 GMT), damaging hundreds of homes, shops and the local church, although no major injuries were reported.
“We were cleaning the church. We were really lucky that we were outside when it hit,” said tearful resident Maria Lagana. “Nobody was hurt, but can you imagine the terror with all these children around'” The Italian government announced it would hold a Cabinet meeting to discuss the earthquake. The latest shock comes two days after a series of quakes rocked Etna awake, sending rivers of lava down the mountain and streams of ash into the sky. Dark clouds stretched as far as Africa and were visible from space.
Experts said today’s quake, however, was not necessarily related to the volcanic activity and were optimistic the lava flows would be brought under control. “The situation is fairly calm, in the sense that there isn’t any danger for the towns,” Enzo Boschi, director of the national geophysics institute said. “The lava fronts are moving a little less quickly,” he said, but added it was hard to predict volcanic activity.
Catania, Sicily’s second-largest city which sits in the shadow of Etna, said today that airports and schools would remain closed until Thursday.
Ash continued to rain down on the city and residents carried umbrellas to protect themselves from flaming particles.