SICILY EARTHQUAKE: 4.8 magnitude quake hits next to Mount Etna volcano

Italy's Mount Etna spews the ash and smoke in Sicily Italy Monday in this still image from a video obtained by Reuters TV

Italy's Mount Etna spews the ash and smoke in Sicily Italy Monday in this still image from a video obtained by Reuters TV

The Mount Etna volcano, the highest in activity in Europe and one of the most active in the world, woke up Monday morning producing intense seismic activity and producing a cloud of ash visible from several miles away.

The quake, which struck at 3.19am local time, was part of a series of some 1,000 mostly weak tremors, according to Italy's Civil Protection officials.

The civil protection agency said temporary shelters were being set up for people whose houses were damaged or who were too anxious to return to their homes.

Wednesday's quake was the strongest in the region since Monday, when Mount Etna spewed ash and forced the temporary closure of Sicilian airspace.

Volcanic ash had earlier covered nearby villages, and flights to and from Catania airport had to be halted temporarily.

"The Embassy is in touch with its Filipino community contacts in the cities of Catania and Messina who reported that they are safe and that no Filipino national has been affected by the eruption", the DFA said in a statement.

Some rural homes were damaged and a statue in a church in the town of Santa Venerina collapsed.

Etna, the largest of Italy's three active volcanoes, has been particularly active since July. The last major eruption was in 1992.

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