ROME - Etna, Europe's most active volcano, continues to spew ash and lava and earthquake tremors show no signs of easing up for the time being. But it was a relatively tranquil night for the hundreds of people that have been displaced in Sicily following the 4.8 magnitude quake early Wednesday that seems to have triggered Mount Etna's eruption.
A state of emergency is being declared in eastern Sicily, while experts and firefighters are assessing the damage in the six most affected districts and cleaning up the debris from several buildings and churches that were severely damaged.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte thanked the hundreds of rescuers and volunteers helping out in affected areas north of the eastern Sicilian city of Catania. He also expressed hope that the injured would soon feel better. The country’s two deputy prime ministers, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, were visiting the affected areas and meeting with local residents Thursday.
Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy’s civil protection department, said emergency shelters have been set up in schools and gyms. Beds and food are being provided for the hundreds of people who have had to leave their unsafe homes or are too scared to go back. He said others are staying in four hotels that have been made available. But many still preferred to sleep in their cars outside their houses.
The more recent tremors have been of a much lower intensity but residents in the affected part of Sicily are nervous. The quake and tremors are linked to a new fracture that opened near Mount Etna's southeast crater.
In recent days the eruption has been shooting volcanic ash, heavy smoke and lava which is flowing down an uninhabited side of the mountain.
Experts monitoring the volcano said they could not rule out other fractures opening up lower down the mountain.
Officials of the civil protection said they could also not rule out that this kind of activity would continue for weeks, that it is unpredictable. This officials said Etna is a volcano which has traditionally had eruptions that have lasted for a long time so there would be careful monitoring.