First, take a look at this video posted on Instagram just minutes before the eruption:
Tourists had been drawn to Mount Etna, on the Italian island of Sicily, to observe the spectacle of the active volcano erupting, only to be caught by surprise when spewing magma hit snow, creating pockets of steam and causing an explosion.
Among those present on the mountain at the time of the midday explosion was the BBC's global science reporter, Rebecca Morelle, who described the experience in a series of tweets.
Caught up in incident at Mount Etna - bbc crew & tourists caught up in huge explosion - caused injuries and evacuation from scene. (1)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Lava flow mixed with steam - caused huge explosion - group pelted with boiling rocks and steam. (2)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Many injured - some head injuries, burns, cuts and bruises. Volcanologist said most dangerous incident experience in his 30 year career (3)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Incident could have been worse - explosions like this have killed - but seems minor injuries for now. (4)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Bbc team all ok - some cuts/ bruises and burns. Very shaken though - it was extremely scary. (5)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Should re-iterate - we are all ok - people brought off mountain quickly by the excellent rescue team (6)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Reminder of how dangerous & unpredictable volcanoes can be - everyone had a very lucky escape. (7)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
Running down a mountain pelted by rocks, dodging burning boulders and boiling steam - not an experience I ever ever want to repeat (8)— Rebecca Morelle (@BBCMorelle) March 16, 2017
The BBC reporter said a volcanologist there told her it was the most dangerous incident he had experienced in his 30-year-career studying Mount Etna.
Ms Morelle later posted a photo on Twitter of her cameraperson Rachel Price holding up a thick winter jacket with a hole burnt through it by a "lump of rock."
Mount Etna has been active for the past two days, creating a visual spectacle as it spews lava and ash into the air. A new lava flow started from the southeastern crater on Wednesday. So far it has not disrupted traffic at the nearby Catania airport or created inconvenience for residents in the area.
(With inputs from Reuters)
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