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The volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli, off the north coast of Sicily, on Wednesday erupted in a series of violent explosions, spewing rocks and lava, killing one person and injuring another, Civil Protection Service officials confirmed to EFE.

The fatality was a hiker whose identity and nationality have not yet been released, according to the preliminary casualty count being compiled by authorities.

The eruption occurred at mid-afternoon and the rocks and ash that emanated from the volcano started several fires around the base of the cone-shaped mountain. Authorities said that the eruption was "ongoing."

Two Canadair firefighting aircraft were dispatched to the scene to put out the fires along with a helicopter to aid hikers in trouble on the island, the Civil Protection Service reported on the social networks.

The explosion startled and scared tourists on the island in the Tyrrhenian Sea causing some of them to jump into the ocean, local media reported.

The eruption produced an enormous column of dense white smoke visible for miles around the tiny island.

The Stromboli volcano - one of the eight Aeolian Islands off the Sicilian coast and one of only three Italian volcanoes that is still active - rises 927 meters (3,040 feet) above the level of the ocean, but its base extends downwards below sea level some 3,000 meters (9,840 feet) to the otherwise flat seabed in the area.

On Dec. 30, 2002, the volcano experienced another eruption that caused a small tsunami some 20 meters high that swept over the low-lying portions of the island.

Italy's National Geophysical and Vulcanology Institute (INGV) said that the eruption occurred at 6:46 pm and is the strongest to be registered since records have been kept, that is to say since 1985.

Wednesday's eruption was similar to the ones produced in 2003 and 2007, with Stromboli being characterized by "continuous but low-energy" activity, according to an INGV report provided to the media.