A 4.8-magnitude earthquake hit the area around Europe’s most active volcano Mount Etna early Wednesday, injuring several people, damaging old buildings and forcing the partial closure of a highway, Italian civil protection authorities said.
Two people had to be rescued from a collapsed building and around 10 people were taken to hospital suffering from light injuries from falling debris. Another 18 people made their way to hospital on their own to be treated for light injuries.
The quake was the strongest in the region after Mount Etna erupted on Monday, spewing ash and forcing the temporary closure of Sicilian airspace.
The national institute for geophysics and vulcanology (INGV) said the quake happened at 3:18 am (0218 GMT) at a depth of 1.2 kilometres (0.75 miles).
Despite the closure of a part of the highway running along the coast, the airport at the eastern city of Catania, the capital of the province, was open.
The epicentre was located north of Catania and several families had to spend the night in the streets.
The quake toppled the belltower of the Santa Maria Santissima del Carmelo church in Acireale, including its statue of Saint Emidio, traditionally believed to protect against earthquakes.
Monday’s eruption occurred on the side of Mount Etna and was the first lateral eruption in a decade.
The INGV said it has recorded 60 quakes higher than 2.5 since then.
Mount Etna is 3,300 metres high with frequent eruptions recorded in the past 2,700 years.
Its most recent eruptions occurred in the spring of 2017 and its last major eruption in the winter of 2008-2009.
At the end of March, a study published in the Bulletin of Volcanology said Etna was slowly sliding towards the Mediterranean — at a constant pace of 14 millimetres per year.