Mount Etna is at risk of collapsing and causing a massive tsunami that could potentially hit Malta, geological experts are warning.
Reports about slow movements at ground level as well as below the water level could escalate and cause part of Europe’s largest active volcano to come crashing down into the Mediterranean Sea, triggering a gigantic wave that would put islands like Sicily and Malta at risk.
“Mount Etna is huge. It’s over 3,000m high and it rises up from below sea level. It’s really heavy, and it grows continuously,” said Dr Morelia Urlaub from Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research.
Having been studying Etna for 30 years, she said her studies revealed a possibility where Mount Etna’s flank movement could trigger a collapse that “leads to a tsunami”.
“It could happen in 10 or 100 or 100,000 years – we can’t tell,” she said. “This movement is important to study as it could lead to a catastrophic collapse of the volcano. There is much more research to be done,” she said, saying it is essential that people are “aware there is a hazard, and keep an eye on Etna’s flank”.
Mount Etna volcano crater
“The results of this study suggest Etna’s flank movement in fact poses a greater hazard than previously thought”
The scientific results gathered from research on Mount Etna were published on the scientific magazine portal Science Advances. The data was gathered using underwater seafloor tools that monitored the changes in movement in the volcano’s underwater slopes.
In May 2017, they recorded that the South-Eastern flank moved an entire 4cm in just 8 days.
This wouldn’t be the first time that Mount Etna collapsed – it is believed that the volcano collapsed around 7,000 years ago, causing major damage throughout the Mediterranean.