A river of molten lava continued to weep from the Mount Etna volcano on Thursday (13 May), cutting a main highway and heading for small War Two.
A river of molten lava continued to weep from the Mount Etna volcano on Thursday (13 May), cutting a main highway and heading for small War Two. It burst out of the 10,877-foot (3,350 metre) mountain at a height of only 5,900 feet (1,800 metres) on Wednesday (12 May) and is already more than 3 miles (5 kms) long.
SYNOPSIS: Red hot molten lava flowed from a point about halfway down Mount Etna on Thursday cutting a path of devastation as it crossed a main highway and headed for small nearby villages. The lava flow is the most vigorous the volcano has unleashed since the Second World War.
Large numbers of onlookers -- tourists and residents in the area -- watched as the lava cascaded down the volcano's side.
The flow has been threatening the area for the past 39 days.
The lava still has some three miles to go before it reaches three small villages in the area, but evacuation plans have been prepared. Tension is growing among local residents as the lava moves even closer. Experts say, however, there's no immediate danger as the terrain is expected to slow the lava down. Scientists check the flow regularly.
Much of the molten rock is running in the bed of a dried up stream. Woods, vineyards, bridges and two highways have already been wrecked and this week the eruption has intensified.
Earlier lava streams farther up 10,877-foot-high mountain destroyed a 100-year-old observatory near the summit and engulfed the upper section of a cable car system which used to take tourists and scientists almost to the main crater.
Tourists and sightseers have been crowding the slopes to watch the display provided by the mountain. But villagers are becoming increasingly annoyed -- their livelihood depends on the land. On Wednesday some local residents attacked tourists who cheered when the lava crossed a new highway. Villagers recall that in 1950 the volcano erupted almost continuously for eight months leaving the entire area in a state of deep financial depression.