A 4.8 magnitude earthquake hit Sicily early this morning, damaging buildings and injuring about 30 people around the city of Catania, on the slopes of active volcano Mount Etna, officials said.
The quake follows an eruption from the volcano two days ago, which sent a huge plume of ash into the sky, forcing the temporary closure of Catania airport on the island’s east coast.
The earthquake hit at 2.19 am UK time, prompting Sicilians to evacuate their homes and sleep in cars. Officials said shockwaves were felt especially strongly because the quake’s epicentre was a relatively shallow one km deep.
TV pictures showed damage to old buildings in nearby towns Santa Venerina and Zafferana Etnea, with several of the area’s centuries-old churches sustaining the most damage. They were empty when the quake struck.
Around 30 people suffered injuries, mostly from debris falling as they tried to escape their homes, according to officials, with 10 people being taken to hospital by ambulances.
The ash cloud from Etna’s initial eruption covered several nearby towns on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day according to Reuters.
Catania airport, which serves a city of around 300,000 people, said on Christmas Day the airspace would return to normal operation by 8pm local time, 7pm UK time.