Etna volcano eruption causes flights to be canceled at Catania Airport in Sicily | volcanoes

Local authorities said flights serving the eastern Sicilian city of Catania were halted after a volcano erupted from nearby Mount Etna, causing new travel problems for the crisis-ridden Italian airport.

The 3,330-meter-high volcano spun into action overnight on Sunday, spewing lava and ash at the Mediterranean island. The pyroclastic flow subsided before dawn, but ash was still coming from one of the craters.

The airport operator said in a statement that flights to and from Catania, a popular tourist destination, are set to remain suspended until 6 a.m. Tuesday, dashing hopes they will resume Monday evening.

A car covered in volcanic ash from Mount Etna. Photo: Fabrizio Villa/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Passengers were advised to check with airlines before heading to the airport on Tuesday.

Incoming flights were diverted to other airports in Sicily on Monday. The cancellations come at the height of the summer holiday season in Italy, while Tuesday is a public holiday.

The mayor of Catania, Enrico Tarantino, banned the use of motorcycles and bicycles in the city for 48 hours – because many streets were covered in ash – and ordered cars to drive no faster than 30 km/h (19 mph). Ash can quickly become slippery on roads and increases the risk of accidents.

Lava flows from Etna.
Lava flows from Etna. Photo: Salvatore Allegra/Associated Press

The latest cancellations at Catania Airport, which attracts more arrivals than the island’s capital, Palermo, came a month after a terminal fire led to weeks of disruption for commuters.

The volcano was erupted last week when Etna spewed gas rings. This extremely rare phenomenon occurs when gas bubbles are pushed through a narrow plume in the volcano, causing a rotational movement of the margins of the jet of gas, causing it to acquire a circular shape. It is propelled hundreds of meters into the air.

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Smoke rings consisting of a mixture of smoke, steam and other gases are expelled at high speed, as the strange phenomenon rarely seen above Etna appears before its eruption.
Smoke rings consisting of a mixture of smoke, steam and other gases are expelled at high speed, as the strange phenomenon rarely seen above Etna appears before its eruption. Photo: Fabrizio Villa/Getty Images

Etna is the longest active volcano in Europe and has erupted repeatedly over the past 500,000 years. The last major eruption of Etna was in 1992.

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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