Volcanic eruption rocks Italian island of Stromboli, kills 1 hiker

By Marnie Hunter and Darran Simon, CNN

(CNN) -- One hiker was killed after a series of eruptions from one of the most active volcanoes on Earth rocked the small island Stromboli on Wednesday, a fire official said.

Firefighters were deployed to extinguish fires started by the eruption, and a helicopter was dispatched to rescue hikers who signaled distress, according to the Italian fire and rescue service Vigili del Fuoco. Vigili del Fuoco spokesperson Lica Cari said fire bridgade teams recovered the body of one hiker.

Firefighters rescued a second hiker, Cari said.

The two primary explosive events occurred around 4:46 p.m., local time, on the island, which is located in Tyrrhenian Sea, off the north coast of Sicily, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology reported. Those events were preceded by lava spills about two minutes prior.

"The analysis of the data of the seismic network made it possible to identify, in addition to the major explosions, about 20 minor explosive events," according to the institute.

The initial explosion was the largest since at least 2007, Boris Benhcke, a volcanologist with the institute posted on Twitter.

Tourists took shelter in the sea, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

'The lighthouse of the Mediterranean'

Social media pictures show Stromboli engulfed in a huge plume of smoke, visible from other islands kilometers away.

Stromboli is one of the eight Aeolian Islands, a volcanic arc north of Sicily and a popular tourist destination.Stromboli has been in a near-continuous eruptive phase for decades.

The volcano is known as "the lighthouse of the Mediterranean" because of its frequent, bright eruptions at night. Wednesday's eruptions are considerably more than normal.

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