Mount Etna: BBC crew caught up in volcano blast

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Media caption,

Moment BBC crew caught in Etna eruption

A BBC team and a number of tourists have suffered minor injuries after being caught up in an incident on the erupting volcano Mount Etna in Sicily.

"Many injured - some head injuries, burns, cuts and bruises," tweeted BBC science reporter Rebecca Morelle.

Lava flow mixed with steam had caused a huge explosion, which pelted the group with boiling rocks and steam, she said.

About eight people had been injured, with some evacuated from the mountain by rescue teams, she added.

Image source, Heather Sharp

"Bbc team all ok - some cuts/ bruises and burns. Very shaken though - it was extremely scary," she relayed in one of a series of tweets as she ran down the mountain.

The BBC reporter said a volcanologist at the scene told her it was the most dangerous incident he had experienced in his 30-year-career.

Image source, AP
Image caption,
Mount Etna is Europe's tallest active volcano

She said a guide had suffered a dislocated shoulder, while a 78-year-old woman had been very close to the blast, but managed to get away safely.

Members of the group ran away from the blast, trying to reach the safety of a snow mobile, she added.

Image source, Rebecca Morelle

Lava ran into snow - Jonathan Amos, BBC science correspondent

Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. That makes it a big draw not only for the scientists who want to understand better how these mountains work, but also for tourists who want to be amazed by a spectacular show of fire.

But you do not just wander up the mountain. If you're a reporter, you go with an experienced science team; if you're a tourist, you go with guides who are familiar with the sights and sounds that spell danger.

But even so, a volcano can often do something that catches everyone by surprise.

In this case a flow of lava ran into snow, producing superheated steam that sent fragments of rock flying in all directions. Everyone counts themselves lucky to have escaped with just cuts and bruises.

Rebecca Morelle's team was on site filming for a report about advances in volcano monitoring. What happened illustrates just how much we still need to learn about these mountains.

Everyone had been taken from the mountain by a team of rescue workers who were "brilliant", Ms Morelle said.

Media caption,

Footage from Thursday shows Etna spewing rock into the air

The Catania operation centre of Italy's volcanology institute confirmed that three of its volcanologists had been on the mountain when the explosion took place, and said some had suffered injuries, but gave no detail.

Mount Etna, which is Europe's tallest active volcano, spewed lava up into the sky in the early hours of Thursday morning, for the third time in three weeks.

Image source, Copernicus Sentinel data (2017)/ESA
Image caption,
Europe's Sentinel-2a satellite pictured Thursday's lava flow from space