Quake Hits Mount Etna

A 3.7 magnitude quake on Thursday hit Mount Etna, the Sicilian volcano which began erupting Sunday. No damage was reported.

The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology in Rome said the quake that killed four children in central Italy and the one shaking Etna did not appear to be connected.

Etna is Europe's largest and most active volcano.

In Santa Venerina, a town hard hit by a strong tremor Tuesday, several hundred people spent the night in tents, hotels or in cars, in case their homes had suffered structural damage during the quake, said Carmela Floreno, a civil defense official in Catania.

Many buildings in the small town, which lies at the foot of the volcano, were declared unsafe by authorities and evacuated.

"One church bell tower in the town was badly cracked ... and could collapse," Floreno said. Hundreds of homes, churches and other buildings would be inspected for structural damage, she said.

Tuesday's main tremor had a 4.4 magnitude.

Meanwhile, Catania and other nearby towns were assessing the damage caused by a series of quakes that hit the area in the wake of the volcano's eruption.

In Catania the airport remained closed as ash continued to pour onto the city, albeit in smaller quantities than in previous days.

Since the eruption started Sunday, the lava has flowed more than halfway down the sides of the 11,000-foot high mountain.

In 1669, a huge eruption destroyed Catania, on Sicily's eastern coast. Etna's last major eruption was in 1992.