The Stromboli volcano was like a “massive bomb”, according to witnesses, as images show a large plume of dark ash rise out of the volcano. A hiker, thought to be from Sicily, was killed after falling rocks rained down on the island during the eruption.
In shocking video footage from Skyline Webcams you hear a loud roar before the volcano erupts.
The footage shows the volcano spout out fresh lava – blocking all view of the camera.
The volcano, which erupted just before 5pm local time on Wednesday, was also shooting out red-hot rocks called lapilli, according to local media.
Tourists often climb to the 924-metre (3,000-foot) summit of the volcano and peer into its crater, with small puffs of molten rock regularly blasted into the sky.
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It was not clear if anyone was on the crater at the time of the blast.
Witness Alyse Walsh, from Brooklyn in the United States, said she was in “disbelief” after viewing the volcano erupt.
She described the eruption as a “a giant mushroom cloud similar to images you see of a massive bomb”.
Ms Walsh, who was on a boat on her way to the island when the eruption occurred, added: “Of course, we were right at the neighbouring islands of Panarea way over there.
“So we were in plain view of the entire island and just couldn’t believe that the islands that we were actually headed to in that very moment was erupting.
“And the Italian crew members were shouting and people were saying things that I didn’t understand exactly. You know, we realised this was very serious and not at all normal.”
Ms Walsh said she was planning to hike the volcano, adding: “It’s a big attraction there. You go at around 6pm and you begin this evening hike up to the top or where you can see lava flows and things.
“And then you hike down after sunset and it’s a tourist attraction and that is what we were booked to do. So we were on our way over to begin that evening trek and the very place we were headed was where that poor person was.”
Despite being “more concerned about the people” that were on the island at the time of the explosion, she said: “Of course, it crossed our minds that if we had been there just an hour earlier, which actually for various reasons we had planned to spend the whole day on the island, me and my group of friends, and we had changed those plans the night before for a variety of reasons.
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“Had we not have changed our plans then we would have been there up at that site where we were going to begin our hike, who knows what would have happened? It is very eerie and a scary feeling to think, what if?”
Following the eruption, two new lava spouts were seen slithering down the volcano on the famed island.
One onlooker said people were forced to jump into the ocean to avoid the lava. The witness said: “Tourists diving into the sea to avoid lava after Stromboli eruption.
“Sudden and violent. It’s not a particularly active volcano, so that’s a surprise.”
Fires were reported on the western side of the island and it was not immediately clear if there were any injuries.
The Foreign Office has changed its travel advice for Italy, saying: “Local authorities have responded and are monitoring the situation; there are no reports of significant impact on populated areas, but local authorities are assisting those on the island who wish to leave; if you’re in the area, you should follow the advice of local authorities.”