A tourist has died and another seriously injured after a volcano unexpectedly erupted on an island in the Mediterranean today.

Emergency services say they dashed to Stromboli volcano on the Italian island off the coast of the mainland this afternoon.

The disaster has killed at least one person, thought to be from Italy, and others are feared missing.

Tourists, frightened by the unexpected explosion, have thrown themselves into the sea at nearby beaches, according to reports.

Pictures show molten lava and ash spewing from the volcano.

It's also shooting out red-hot rocks called lapilli, local sources claim.

A Brit said the scenes "looked like a nuke" in the sky.

"A huge column of dense black smoke is coming out of the crater," another witness said.

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Another added: "There was a powerful explosion. We heard a bang, then a column of smoke and lapilli fell onto Ginostra, and flames on the slopes of the volcano".

The fire service the eruption has caused blazes to break out across the tiny rural islands.

People on Twitter have expressed their concern.

"Major #eruption on #Stromboli sudden and major, I really hope everyone is ok the whole mountain just blew up a few seconds ago," wrote one user.

Another posted: "Tourists diving into the sea to avoid lava after Stromboli eruption.

"Sudden and violent. It's not a particularly active volcano, so that's a surprise."

Michela Favorito, who works in a hotel near Fico Grande, on the east side of the island, said: "We saw the explosion from the hotel. There was a loud roar.

"We plugged our ears and after this a cloud of ash swept over us.

"The whole sky is full of ash, a fairly large cloud."

Fiona Carter, a British tourist on neighbouring island Panrea, heard the blast.

"We turned around to see a mushroom cloud coming from Stromboli. Everyone was in shock. Then red hot lava started running down the mountain towards the little village of Ginostra," she said.

"The cloud got bigger, white and grey. It enveloped Ginostra and now the cloud has covered Stromboli entirely. Several boats set off for Stromboli."

And Alana Elliot, 31, was relaxing on the beach or a neighbouring island when she heard a thunderous boom and saw a “big mushroom cloud which looked like a nuke” in the sky.

The lawyer, accompanied by fiance Alex Barclay, 30, and future bridesmaid Charlotte Lewis, 28, was on a beach 33 miles away on the island of Salina.

"We heard a really loud boom as though thunder and lightning had struck right next to us and saw people running along the beach," Alana, of Bethnal Green, east London, said.

"Staff were collecting our beach chairs and instead of putting them in the usual spot they were grabbing them and throwing them to one side before running away.

"We realised it was a big deal when the locals started to freak out and were running for their lives.

"There were 20 other people on the beach."

Stromboli, with around 500 residents, is a small island off the north coast of Sicilly.

The round volcano stands 926 m (3,038 ft) above sea level. It last erupted in 2009.

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