In Brief

Stromboli volcano eruption: one dead and several missing

Male hiker killed as tourists dive into the sea to escape ‘nuke-like’ explosion on the Italian island

A hiker has been killed as a series of eruptions at one of the most active volcanoes on Earth rocks the Italian tourist island of Stromboli.

The dead man - later named as Massimo Imbesi, 35, from Sicily - “was hit by falling rocks as he climbed the volcano with a Brazilian companion, who was found shocked and dehydrated by rescuers”, says the Daily Mail.

Fire and rescue workers have recovered Imbesi’s body. Several other tourists are believed to be missing following the eruption, which witnesses described as “like a nuke going off”, the Daily Mirror reports.

What happened?

The volcano on Stromboli- a small island with around 500 residents off the north coast of Sicily- erupted at 4.46pm local time (2.46pm GMT), reports CNN.

Lava spilled out ahead of two primary eruptions, which were followed by “about 20 minor explosive events”, according to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.

Dozens of frightened tourists are reported to have fled into the sea to escape the eruptions. “There was this smoke and material, just going up, and up and up,” Cristiano Demurtas, a London-based theatre director, told CNN. “[I saw a] fountain of stones, but it was like one second, or maybe two seconds.”

Alana Elliot, a lawyer from east London, told the Daily Mirror that she was relaxing on the beach of a neighbouring island with her fiance when they “heard a really loud boom as though thunder and lightning had struck right next to us”, and saw a “big mushroom cloud which looked like a nuke” above Stromboli.

Firefighters were deployed to extinguish fires, and a helicopter was dispatched to rescue hikers, as the plume of smoke from the volcano rose more than a mile into the sky.

Meanwhile, about 70 residents were evacuated from the nearby hamlet of Ginostra, reports the New York Post.

“It was like being in hell because of the rain of fire coming from the sky,” said local priest Giovanni Longo.

How active is Stromboli?

One of three main active volcanoes in Italy, “Stromboli has been in a near-continuous eruptive phase for decades”, says CNN.

Indeed, “the volcano is known as ‘the lighthouse of the Mediterranean’ because of its frequent, bright eruptions at night”, adds the US-based news network. 

In December 2002, one such explosion triggered a tidal wave after magma from a particularly violent eruption cascaded into the sea. Six people were injured.

However, this week’s eruptions “are considerably more severe than normal”, says CNN.

According to volcanologist Boris Behncke, of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, the initial explosion on Wednesday was the largest in 12 years.

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