Mount Etna erupts creating huge fountains of lava as volcanic stones rain down

Mount Etna has created fountains of lava more than 1km high – as it erupts for the fifth time in eight days.

Spectacular photos show huge ash clouds stretching 10km into the air above Europe's most active volcano on Tuesday morning, February 23.

It comes amid fears the 10,922ft tall peak in Sicily, Italy, could cause a tsunami “in the entire Mediterranean”.

The latest eruption has been so massive it’s even been seen from space, the Metro reports.

The current activity has been occurring off and on since December and is being closely monitored.

Locals living close to the volcano reported that big chunks of volcanic stones had covered the popular tourist area as well as ash.

Areas surrounding the crater were secured with no reported injuries or fatalities as a result of the eruptions.

A nearby airport was forced to close temporarily due to a blast on Sunday, February 21.

Pedara resident Letizia Olivieri said: "It was a rain of stones. Something I never saw in my entire life."

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Alfio Cristaudo, the mayor of nearby Pedara, said the village was in emergency mode from the extent of the eruption.

He added: "The entire territory of Pedara and all the streets are covered in volcanic ashes and lapillus (volcanic stones)."

Towering Etna is also the tallest active volcano in Europe and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.

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In 2017, 10 people including a BBC news crew were injured when the volcano erupted.

A further eruption in August 2018 sent plumes of ash and lava spewing in the air but no evacuations or injuries were reported.

Scientists say the giant volcano is edging closer to the Mediterranean Sea by 14mm every year, which could result in "devastating" consequences.

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More than 500,000 people live around the base of Mount Etna which is one of the most active volcanoes on earth.

Even the ancient Romans wrote about it and lived in its shadow, as it has been active for thousands of years.

In 2018, researchers found that Etna appears to be slowly sliding into the Mediterranean sea.

The readings observed the movement of the volcano in its entirety using 100 GPS stations.

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Lead researcher Dr John Murray said: "Previous studies of long-extinct volcanoes found those sliding downslope in a similar way have resulted in catastrophic landslides later in their history.

"Constant movement could contribute to a major landslide along Etna's coast, causing devastating tsunamis to the surrounding areas."

Geophysicist Heidrun Kopp from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany added that it was "quite possible that it could collapse catastrophically, which could trigger a tsunami in the entire Mediterranean”.

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GEOMAR said the “movement can be compared to a very slow earthquake, a so-called 'slow slip event'".

Experts previously thought it was due to a build-up of magma inside the volcano.

The research was published in the international journal Science Advances.

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