Eruption of Snow-Covered Mt. Etna Kills 2 Tourists and Injures 7 Others

Associated Press

Ashes, gases and tons of rocks shot from Mt. Etna and showered tourists near the snow-covered summit of Europe’s tallest volcano Friday, killing an 8-year-old French boy and his mother, Italian officials reported.

The eruption injured seven others in the group of 30 French, Italian and German tourists, but none was in serious condition, said police in this city on Sicily’s eastern coast.

Rescue workers had to drive over snow-covered trails to reach the group. Helicopters were unable to land because of heavy fog.


No Warning

The Civil Defense Ministry in Rome said the eruption came without warning and may have been caused by snow melting into craters, forming an explosive mixture of vapors and volcanic gas.

“That type of phenomenon is very difficult to predict,” a ministry statement said.

The tourists were walking with a guide when the eruption occurred at the 9,900-foot level on the 10,902-foot Etna.

In recent weeks, experts have noted an increase in earth tremors and other volcanic activity on the slope. The last eruption was 120 days ago.

Visitors can reach the upper slopes by four-wheel drive vehicles, but Renato Cristofolini, a volcanologist in Catania who monitors Etna’s activity, said, “Tourists are warned not to go near the craters.”

The Civil Defense Ministry identified the dead as Danielle Prevot, 41, and her son, Pierre Henri Prevot, 8.

Etna’s beauty--a huge black cone that can be seen 150 miles away--attracts tourists from all over the world. The volcano has devastated Catania in the past, the last time in 1669 when the lava flow reached the sea.