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By Antonio Parrinello
STROMBOLI, Italy, Feb 28 Residents and tourists have been told to move away from the coast of an Italian volcanic island in case its spectacular eruptions cause tidal waves, emergency services said on Wednesday.
Two big lava flows burst out of Stromboli's side on Tuesday, sending up vast plumes of steam as they plunged into the Mediterranean below. Authorities said there was no immediate risk to people living on the island, off the coast of Sicily.
"The eruption (lava flows) are very well fed," said Enzo Boschi, head of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology.
"But there's no reason to think that anything extraordinary will happen in the short term. The population is not at risk."
Residents fear a repeat of the events of December 2002 when a similar upsurge in volcanic activity caused a massive chunk of rock to fall into the sea, causing a 10-metre (33-foot) tidal wave that ruined houses close to the shore.
Emergency sirens sounded on the island when the new eruption began and local authorities ordered residents to move at least 10 metres above the water line.
"We've done evacuation drills," one resident told Sky Italia television. "We were ready yesterday when that siren went off, we all gathered in the piazza."
The lava was flowing down an uninhabited part of the island and the risk, of a greater eruption or of a tsunami, was not considered serious enough to prompt a full-scale evacuation.
In winter only a few hundred people live on Stromboli, but the population swells to several thousand in the summer.
Tourists are drawn to climb to the 924-metre (3,000-ft) summit of the volcano and peer into its crater as molten rock is blasted high into the sky.
The island was the setting for a 1950 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and, with other islands in the Aeolian archipelago, has become a favourite location in recent decades for holiday homes for the rich and famous.
Designers Dolce & Gabbana, writer Umberto Eco and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano are all reported to have homes on Stromboli. (Additional reporting by Antonella Ciancio in Milan)