It was just little things at first...a TV would smoulder, a mobile phone would catch fire.

But then it got worse - a whole lot worse.

Over three weeks fridges, washing machines, cookers and furniture all began bursting into flames for no reason. Twelve houses were badly damaged by blazes in the quiet village.

Now, with panic-stricken locals blaming evil spirits and calling for an exorcism, the mayor has ordered a full-scale evacuation.

Last night Italian TV showed people fleeing in tears while fireman rushed to fight yet another spontaneous blaze.


Engineers called to Canneto di Caronia, near Messina, Sicily, were baffled because the fires continued even when the power was cut off.

Mayor Pedro Spinnato said: "This all began three weeks ago and we can discover no explanation. We cannot risk a tragedy through these fires so I have no other option to evacuate.

"We have had engineers in to examine cables and wires but they can find nothing wrong. Twelve houses have been severely damaged after various domestic appliances burst into flames.

"But it is not just electrical items. Furniture is also catching fire for no reason.

"For the time being we have asked families to leave and stay with friends and relatives so a through examination can take place.

"People are blaming evil spirits and I am being asked to get the priest to perform an exorcism."

Civil protection chief Tullio Martella said: "What is going on here is like a scene from some paranormal film.

"The fires continued even when we cut power to the village to see if that was a possible cause."

"For the time being there is no scientific explanation and I have never heard of anything like this before."

Last night more than 100 engineers were in the village and geologists were also due to carry out underground surveys.