Europe's most active volcano has first major eruption since 1992 as airport forced to cancel flights and shut overnight

22 May 2023, 14:25 | Updated: 22 May 2023, 15:57

Mount Etna erupted last night.
Mount Etna erupted last night. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Europe’s most active volcano had its first major eruption since 1992 on Sunday night, forcing masses of flights to be cancelled.

An explosion of molten liquid fired out of Mount Etna, a volcano in eastern Sicily, on Sunday night and coated surrounding areas in a thick layer of ash.

The city’s airport was forced to ground all planes and temporarily close after the eruption.

No injuries were reported following the volcano’s eruption, but Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics (INGV) and volcanology said the ash fall was spread over Catania, as well as a town on one of the mountain’s inhabited slopes.

A number of flights due to arrive at the Sicilian airport this morning were either cancelled or diverted to a nearby airport.

Flights have now be restored at the airport “with initial limitations”, but the airport warned on its social media that delays are still likely and passengers are urged to check the status of their flight with airlines.

Photos shared online shows nearby vehicles covered in the ash from the volcano's plume of smoke.

At 3,357 metres high, Mount Etna is the tallest volcano in Europe and is known for erupting multiple times a year.

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Footage of the volcano's eruption last night.
Footage of the volcano's eruption last night. Picture: Twitter

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But the volcano's last major eruption was back in 1992, because while the explosions are regular they're usually small-scale events.

The INGV suggested that volcano monitoring recorded evidence of an increase in tremor activity recently.

Mount Etna’s regular eruptions has contributed to the fertility of nearby land, nourishing the vineyards and orchards in the surrounding areas.

Despite the volcano’s repeated eruptions the Sicilian city is one of the most-visited regions in Italy, attracting tourists from all over.

It follows a series of lethal floods in the northern region of Emilia Romagna, which left 15 people dead and forced 36,000 to evacuate their homes.

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