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Archive for Sunday, August 5, 2001

Total calm’ descends around Italy’s volcano

August 5, 2001

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— With Mount Etna's eruption seemingly under control, officials agreed Saturday to let tourists return to the volcano that just days ago was brimming with red-hot lava.

Tour buses were being organized for Monday to drop the curious off along the mountainside. Guides were to escort the tourists to see the cooled lava, the AGI news agency said, citing an agreement between the province and the guides.

Just days ago, Etna's molten magma had gobbled up a cable car base at a tourist station, torched a warehouse and a building used to store ski equipment.

Though the volcano was still coughing up clouds of ash that kept Catania's airport closed through the weekend, officials said Etna had calmed significantly and that the Rifugio Sapienza tourist station was out of danger.

The head of the civil protection agency, Franco Barberi, said the situation was one of "total calm."

Local officials continued to complain about the problems the eruption had caused Sicily's tourist industry at its summer peak. Thousands of tourists were forced to travel by bus across Sicily after flights were diverted to Palermo and to airports in Reggio Calabria and Lamezia Terme, across the Straits of Messina in the southern region of Calabria.

Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, springs to life every few months.

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