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‘One dead’ as volcano unexpectedly erupts on Italian island

A volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli erupted on Wednesday, killing one person, according to local officials.

The person, believed to be a tourist, was killed by falling stones during a walk, a rescue service official told Reuters.

Italian news agency ANSA also quoted the mayor of Lipari, the biggest of the Aeolian Islands off Sicily that Stromboli belongs to, saying that one person was killed.

Mayor Marco Giorgianni told ANSA that the victim was a tourist who had trekked up to the summit of the volcano.

The unexpected eruption started fires on the western side of the small Mediterranean island and sent plumes of grey smoke into the air.

“We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar,” Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande on the east side of the island, told Reuters.

“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us. The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud.”

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ANSA reported some tourists jumped into the sea “out of fear” as the eruption happened.

Many on the island and from nearby Sicily were posting images and videos of the eruption online.

Stromboli is one of the longest continuously active volcanoes in the world and has been erupting for about 2,000 years.

Mike Burton, a professor of volcanology at the University of Manchester who has conducted extensive work on the 924m (3,031ft) volcano, told Sky News that the volcano regularly produces mild explosions which are not hazardous.

Professor Burton said they occur every 15 to 20 minutes and throw red-hot blobs of lava up to 200m (656ft) above the crater.

“This makes it very attractive for visitors to the summit area,” Burton said. “Major explosions occur every one to two years and are larger, while larger paroxysmal eruptions occur every decade. Both of these are hazardous for visitors to the summit.”

The professor said it is hard to qualify Wednesday’s eruption, but added that it definitely can be considered a major one.

He explained there are reinforced concrete shelters at the volcano’s summit that can provide protection and these are the areas where tourists usually go when they ascend the volcano with local guides.

Antonio Capponi, senior research associate at Lancaster University, told Sky News that the causes of these sudden violent events are still poorly understood.

“Despite the usually mild activity and [it being] considered ‘friendly’ by the public, Stromboli – and any other active volcano – is still an unpredictable and very complex system and extreme care must be taken all the time,” Capponi said.

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