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Etna eruption grounds flights in Catania, Sicily with clouds of ash



Volcanic ash covers a plane at Catania airport on May 21, 2023.


Flights from Catania airport in Sicily were grounded on Sunday after volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount Etna covered the runways.

Airport authorities announced that flights would be suspended until Monday at 9 local time (3:00 a.m. ET) due to the fallout from the outbreak on Twitter. They later told CNN that flights are expected to resume by noon Monday (6 a.m. ET).

Orietta Scardino/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Volcanic ash in Nicolosi, near Catania

Pictures and video footage show black volcanic ash covering planes at the airport and covering roads in the area.

The ash was produced by a paroxysmal eruption that sent fountains of lava more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) into the air, Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology’s Etna observatory, told CNN.

The observatory said in a statement that the eruption phase ended around 21 Sunday, but it could not predict when a new phase may begin.

Orietta Scardino/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Cars in Nicolosi on May 21

Volcanic ash clouds are a serious hazard to aviation, reducing visibility, disrupting air traffic control and ultimately causing jet engines to fail.

In 2010, a volcanic eruption in Iceland sent a huge plume of ash moving across the Atlantic, causing massive disruption to air traffic across Western Europe.

In the wake of the crisis, international aviation authorities introduced new risk management guidance on flight safety and volcanic ash.

Etna is Europe’s most active volcano, and also the highest, at about 3,350 meters (nearly 11,000 feet) high.

It is located on the east coast of Sicily, just north of the city of Catania.

Etna’s eruptions are relatively frequent, resulting in a landscape that is constantly changing as lava hardens, craters collapse and, in some cases, are created.

It is one of Sicily’s most popular tourist attractions, with visitors able to hike up the volcano or take a cable car that connects with a 4×4 bus to take visitors to the 2,800 meter mark.

In March 2017, a group of tourists and a BBC camera crew made a dramatic escape during an eruption.

Surrounded by steam and with boiling hot rocks tumbling down on them, the group sprinted to a nearby rescue vehicle that brought them to safety. Ten people were injured, but none seriously, Italian news agency Ansa reported at the time.

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