A volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli has killed at least one tourist, after two particularly powerful explosions. A huge plume of smoke could be seen over the island afterwards.
Residents and tourists on Stromboli were evacuated on Wednesday after two powerful explosions rocked the tiny island.
Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) said it recorded the explosions on the central-southern side of the volcano's crater at 12:46 p.m. (1446 UTC).
Before the explosions, lava spills had been observed "from all the active mouths of the crater terrace," the INGV said. The discharged produced a two-kilometer (1.25-mile) high plume of smoke.
"It was like being in hell because of the rain of fire coming from the sky," Italian news agencies quoted local priest Giovanni Longo as saying.
Longo said it was not clear if any hikers had been on the volcano at the time of the eruption. The volcanic explosions also led to fires around the village of Ginostra.
Hiker reported killed
However, at least one tourist — an Italian who was hiking with a Brazilian walking partner — was reported to have been killed. The partner was found in a state of dehydration and shock.
Efforts to extinguish blazes using a firefighting plane were hampered by the large amount of smoke.
Although the volcano is known to be active, the two explosions on Wednesday were said to have been particularly powerful. Italian media reported that some tourists had fled into the sea, while others barricaded themselves into homes.
The presence of an active volcano on the island means it is a magnet for tourists who visit from early spring each year.
A previous huge eruption, in December 2002, caused a tidal wave after magma from a particularly violent discharge poured into the sea.
At that time, access to the island was forbidden to outsiders for more than a month amid the risk of further landslides.
Most of the island's population left for the Aeolian island administrative center of Lipari.
Stromboli became famous after a 1950 film of the same name by Roberto Rossellini that starred Ingrid Bergman.
Early last month, the INGV reported that nearby Mount Etna, on the island of Sicily, had burst into life with lava pouring from two eruptive fissures. The volcano last erupted in December.
rc/se (dpa, AFP, AP, EFE)