Tourists have described their horror as they fled a volcano in Italy that killed a man after it unexpectedly erupted on a Mediterranean island.
Local priest Giovanni Longo described the terrifying scene at the Stromboli volcano as “being in hell because of the rain of fire coming from the sky”.
Another tourist said the blast was “like a nuke going off”, with many people forced to run for their lives to safety,
The eruption yesterday killed at least one person, thought to be a 35-year-old hiker from Italy, and others are feared missing.
Dramatic pictures show molten lava and ash spewing from the volcano.
It’s also shooting out red-hot rocks called lapilli, local sources said.
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“There was a powerful explosion,” another witness said. “We heard a bang, then a column of smoke and lapilli fell onto Ginostra, and flames on the slopes of the volcano”.
The fire service the eruption has caused blazes to break out across the tiny rural islands.
Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island, said: “We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar.
“We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us.
“The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud.”
Fiona Carter, a British tourist on neighbouring island Panrea, heard the blast.
“We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli,” she said. “Everyone was in shock.
“Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra.
“The cloud got bigger, white and grey. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli.”
And Alana Elliot, 31, was relaxing on the beach or a neighbouring island when she heard a thunderous boom and saw a “big mushroom cloud which looked like a nuke” in the sky.
The lawyer, accompanied by fiance Alex Barclay, 30, and future bridesmaid Charlotte Lewis, 28, was on a beach 33 miles away on the island of Salina.
“We heard a really loud boom as though thunder and lightning had struck right next to us and saw people running along the beach,” Alana, of Bethnal Green, east London, said.
“Staff were collecting our beach chairs and instead of putting them in the usual spot they were grabbing them and throwing them to one side before running away.
“We realised it was a big deal when the locals started to freak out and were running for their lives.
“There were 20 other people on the beach.”
Stromboli, with around 500 residents, is a small island off the north coast of Sicilly.
The round volcano stands 926 m (3,038 ft) above sea level. It last erupted in 2009.