Volcanic Eruption Forces Airport Shutdown

Mount Etna Eruption Closes Airport In Sicily

Stock image of mount Etna. Credit: Official U.S. Navy Page/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

The eruption of Mount Etna has led to the suspension of flights at Catania Airport in Sicily. The mayor of Catania has also imposed a temporary ban on motorcycles and bicycles due to ash-covered streets.

On the night of Sunday, August 13, the 3,330-metre-high volcano erupted, spewing lava and ash over the Mediterranean island, with the lava flow ceasing before dawn but ash still emanating from one of the craters. Local authorities in Catania announced the flight cancellations, adding to the existing problems at the already troubled Italian airport, writes The Guardian.

The airport operator stated that flights to and from Catania, a favoured tourist spot, were to remain halted until 6:00 am on Tuesday, August 15, dispelling any expectations of a resumption on Monday night. ‘Passengers were advised to check with airlines before heading to the airport on Tuesday,’ the statement read. The disruption comes at the height of Italy’s summer vacation period, and Tuesday is a public holiday.

Diverted to other Sicilian airports on Monday, incoming flights were affected by the cancellations. Catania’s mayor, Enrico Trantino, prohibited the use of motorcycles and bicycles for 48 hours due to the ash-laden streets and mandated a speed limit of 30kph (19mph) for cars. The ash’s slippery nature on roads poses a danger to road users.

This recent interruption at Catania airport, which sees more incoming flights than Palermo, the island’s capital, occurred a month after a terminal building fire caused weeks of inconvenience for travellers.

The eruption was forecast last week when Etna released gas rings, an incredibly rare occurrence where gas bubbles are forced through a narrow passage in the volcano, and form a ring shape, which is then thrust hundreds of metres into the air.

Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano, has seen frequent eruptions over the past 500,000 years. The last significant eruption of Etna took place in 1992.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.