Environment: Challenging Mount Etna's Power

Three precision blasts combat a raging river of lava

The people on Sicily's east coast have always lived uneasily in the shadow of Mount Etna, which has erupted 22 times in the past 75 years. Two months ago, Europe's tallest active volcano (10,700 ft.) awoke once again. Down its south face surged a molten ribbon of lava that destroyed a dozen buildings and more than 370 acres of fields and forests, causing millions of dollars' worth of damage.

In an effort to divert the magma, Italy's minister of civil protection summoned a team of volcanologists. The strategy: to redirect the lava from its...

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