Mount Etna, Sicily as an example of an MEDC dealing with Vulcanicity

Mt Etna, Sicily (MEDC)


Nature of the Hazard:

  • Highest and most active volcano in Europe.
  • 25% of the population of Sicily live on the slopes of the volcano.
  • Since 2001 Mt Etna has seen an eruption every year
  • Mt Etna is found on a destructive plate boundary between the African plate subducting beneath the Eurasian plate.
  • Mt Etna is a composite volcano
  • Usually erupts basaltic lava which is less viscous.
  • Potentially danger from earthquakes
  • Also issues with gas plumes, volcanic dust and ash falls.
  • Risk of flank eruption (anywhere but vent)

Impact of the event:

  • 77 confirmed deaths can be attributed to the eruption of the volcano, few in recent years.
  • 2002 eruption completely destroyed a local tourist station, Piano Provenzana.
  • Sicily’s second largest airport, Catania, was also forced to close as the airport had to deal with deep layers of ash on the runway. The 2002 winter tourism industry tried to avoid the area due to concerns about safety and reliability.
  • Eruption of 2002 caused clouds of gas and ash to be expelled from the vents of the volcano which led to the airport in Catania being closed for 4 days due to the effect of ash on aircraft engines. This ash reached Libya.
  • Magma was thrown up to 100m into the air and ran quickly down the mountain into residential areas which had to be evacuated . 1000 people had to leave their homes.
  • Tourism industry devastated due to snow slopes for skiing being impacted by lava flows.  Many family run ski schools had to close for business
  • In 2007 a further large eruption of lava occurred with it being thrown up to 400 m into the air.
  • No local towns were damaged but agriculture and tourism was impacted.


Responses to the event:


    • Rescue workers tried to divert the lava flows to protect a scientific research facility on the side of the mountain.
    • Bulldozers used to crack tarmac for building barriers in a car park in an attempt to divert lava flows away from residential homes.
    • Ship with medical clinic was docked in Catania.
    • Tax breaks given to those directly impacted, £5.6 million used in financial immediate assistance.
    • Italian Army’s brought in equipment to move heavy earth.
    • In most cases local people, who were generally insured, rebuilt their homes elsewhere if they were destroyed.


  • Very little government intervention



Management of the Hazard:


  • Scientific research on the volcano has been occurring for over 20 years.  This includes using a network of remote sensors which work in real time.
  • Data continuously recorded by permanent stations are integrated with discrete observations, surveys and laboratory analysis.
  • Geochemical monitoring test gas and fluid emissions to predict new eruptions and warn of dangerous gas emissions.