Scientists, tourists and a BBC crew team were among 10 people injured after being caught up in a “violent explosion” on Thursday night on the erupting volcano Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy. The blast was caused when the fast-moving lava traveled across snow, creating high-pressure pockets of steam. None of the injuries were serious, but several of those wounded were treated at a nearby hospital.
The BBC’s Rebecca Morelle, who was present, reported on the incident in a series of tweets, noting that everyone who was rescued, including the BBC team, guides and a 78-year-old woman, are okay.
“Caught up in incident at Mount Etna – bbc crew & tourists caught up in huge explosion – caused injuries and evacuation from scene,” she wrote. “Many injured – some head injuries, burns, cuts and bruises. Volcanologist said most dangerous incident experience in his 30 year career.”
“When the lava flows over a lot of snow at high speed, it can trap the snow underneath,” Marco Neri, a volcanologist at Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, said. “The snow then melts into water, then becomes vapor, and the pressure on the cap made of lava eventually leads to an explosion called phreatic eruption. This is what happened in this case.”
He added that the explosion “threw pieces of lava in the air, and 10 people in the area were hit and injured, none seriously.”
According to the BBC, Etna is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and spewed lava into the sky on Thursday for the third time in three weeks.