The Summit Craters

The eruption of 1928 that destroyed the town of Mascali

“Between 6 and 7 November 1928, the town of Mascali, located on the lower eastern slope of Etna, was erased from topographic maps after it was submerged by a lava flow.
In 1928, the town of Mascali stood on a hill at 120 metres above sea level, and had around 3,000 inhabitants dedicated to the cultivation of the countryside and the transformation of citrus fruits into calcium citrate and essences at the many industrial facilities.
On the north-eastern side of Etna, on 2 November, a system of eruptive and dry fissures formed, measuring a total of 7.7 kilometres in the ENE-WSW direction. The eruption was preceded and accompanied by intense explosive activity in the north-east crater. On the same day, the first segment of the eruptive fissure formed in the Valle del Leone, at an altitude of 2600 metres above sea level. Just 450 metres long, the fissure remained active for under one hour and produced a small lava flow. On 3 November, the second segment of the fissure, this time 3.2 kilometres long, opened up in Serra delle Concazze, between 2300 and 1560 metres above sea level. This segment was active for around 20 hours and produced a lava flow of 3.8 kilometres.
On the evening of 4 November, the third segment of the fissure opened, just 100 metres long and at an even lower altitude (1200 metres above sea level) in Ripa della Naca. At half past eleven on 5 November, the flow had reached a length of 6 kilometres and was advancing at 0.46 kilometres per hour. The active front had descended to an altitude of 350 metres above sea level. That day, the town of Mascali was evacuated.
At half past ten, the flow had covered 7.3 kilometres and the front was at an altitude of 130 metres above sea level, around 200 metres from the first dwellings in Mascali. Between 6 and 7 November, the lava flow buried the village for good.
For the first time at Etna an eruption was also monitored through a series of aerial overflights at the specific request of Gaetano Ponte. Also for the first time, by order of the Prefect of Catania, official information about the evolution of the eruptive phenomena was provided by the Etnean Volcanological Institute through the production of daily bulletins.
Immediately after the end of the eruption and especially following an initial moment of confusion, the Fascist government decided to rebuild the town further downstream, along the Messina-Catania state road, in its eagerness to show Italy and foreign nations its technical-organisational skills in facing the emergency caused by the destructive event.
The 1928 eruption is the only eruptive event since the 18th century to cause the destruction of an inhabited place on Etna.”


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