Residents pray for Etna to calm

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Natural valleys on Mount Etna's facade appeared to have slowed the march of molten lava toward a small Sicilian town, but residents nevertheless thronged to church Sunday to pray for the volcano to quiet down.

Natural valleys on Mount Etna's facade appeared to have slowed the march of molten lava toward a small Sicilian town, but residents nevertheless thronged to church Sunday to pray for the volcano to quiet down.

With the front line of lava four kilometers (2.5 miles) away, Nicolosi's faithful also scheduled an evening prayer vigil Sunday.

For the moment, the magma was being channeled into a natural valley on the volcano's side – as civil protection officials had anticipated, the ANSA news agency said. Man–made embankments of asphalt and soil, meanwhile, have been erected to try to block the lava from nearing houses if it gets any closer.

Sunday started with a small earthquake being registered in Nicolosi. No injuries or damage were reported.

The volcano sprang to life last week after a series of several hundred temblors in the region. Its stunning displays of spewing orange lava and clouds of black ash have forced the evacuation of some resorts and restaurants on the volcano, but so far the towns nearby have not been evacuated.

Etna is Europe's largest active volcano and springs to life every few months. Its slopes are closely monitored. The volcano's last major eruption was in 1992.

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