Tectonic hazard case study: Mt Etna

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Memrise – Mt Etna 2002

Get revising – Mt Etna 2002

Key facts

  • Erupted throughout November 2002
  • Located on Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean.


Mt Etna is on a destructive plate boundary. The African plate is being subducted underneath the Eurasian plate. Mt Etna is a strato-volcano formed by repeated volcanic eruptions that have built up layers of lava and ash to create a cone.

Consequences Social

  • Damaged more than 100 homes in Santa Venerina
  • 1000 people had to leave their homes in Linguaglossa
  • Schools were shut down in Linguaglossa (although the church remained open for people to pray)


  • Catania airport was closed for 4 days as ash was covering the runway and threatened to clog aircraft engines
  • The skiing season was about to start but the area was covered by the flowing lava.
  • Lava flows engulfed a restaurant and push over three ski-lift pylons


  • A series of earthquakes, measuring up to 4.3 on the Richter scale
  • Magma was thrown more than 100m into the air
  • Lava ran quickly down the mountainside forming two seperate flows
  • Ash fell on the nearby city of Catania and drifted as far south as Libya
  • Destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest on the slopes of the volcano

Responses Short-term

  • Holiday homes were taken over by local authorities to house the displaced people
  • Residential areas such ass Linguaglosssa were evacuated due to the threat from the lava flow
  • Villagers in Linguaglossa paraded their patron saint through the town to try to ward off the lava flow
  • Italian government declared a state of emergency in parts of Sicily during the eruption
  • Rescue workers battled to divert the lava that threatened to engulf a volcanic monitoring station at the foot of Mt Etna
  • Army used bulldozers to crack the tarmac and build barriers in the Mt Etna visitor car park to try to create a channel that would redirect the lava away from populated areas
  • Emergency workers dug channels to divert the northern flow away from Linguaglossa
  • A ship equipped with a medical clinic was positioned off Catania to be ready in case of emergency


  • Italian government gave tax breaks to the 300 families who were affected by the eruption
  • Government also provided more than £5.6 million in immediate financial assistance
  • Tourist facilities rebuilt