Mount Etna: Lava pours from volcano in large eruption

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Europe’s biggest and most active volcano has been erupting since mid-February, raining ash and smoke over Sicily’s eastern coast. Mount Etna last erupted at 2am local time (1am GMT) on Sunday, March 7, in a spectacular display of nature’s fireworks. The eruption, or paroxysm, saw “impressive lava fountains” shoot into the sky from Etna’s northeast crater, according to volcanologists at Volcano Discovery.

Activity picked up in the wee morning hours on Sunday after three days of relative peace and quiet.

Volcano Discovery said: “This marks the 10th paroxysm in a row in a remarkable series since February 16.

“Intervals between individual eruptions have been regular, ranging between 36 hours to 3.5 days only, and there are no signs that this series is ending soon.”

Lava fountaining at Etna’s crater was preceded by a spike in volcanic tremors – a surefire sign of magma rushing to the surface.

The volcano belched a column of ash and smoke that left nearby towns covered in ash and was even picked up by satellites, according to BBC Weather.

A report issued by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center Toulouse (VAAC) on Sunday warned of sulphur dioxide (SO2) mixed with ice and some ash in the clouds around the volcano.

The advisory read: “Strombolian activity still observed; low ash emission in the vicinity of volcano.”

Volcanic ash is particularly harmful to planes as particles sucked into an engine can melt and damage internal components.

But the ash also affected nearby towns and villages with videos and pictures shared on social media showing streets, buildings and cars covered in black soot.

Locals were seen sweeping the streets with brooms and leaf blowers.

At least eight villages were pelted with small rocks ejected from the volcano.

Lava was also seen flowing from Etna’s southeast side but, fortunately, it flowed towards an uninhabited area.

Boris Behncke, a volcanologist with Italy’s national geophysics and volcanology institute (INGV) has been following the eruptions from his Sicily home.

He called Sunday’s eruption a “rather violent” event that caused heavy fallout on towns and villages on Etna’s eastern flank, including Milo, Sant’Alfio and Giarre.

The volcanologist also tweeted pictures of the ash-covered villages of Passopisciaro and Fornazzo.

In another tweet, he said the eruption was more intense than the preceding blasts on March 2 and 4 and compared it to another paroxysm on February 28.

Mr Behncke has previously called Mount Etna the most beautiful volcano in the world.

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The INGV later confirmed on Sunday explosive activity ceased about 1.10pm local time (12.10pm GMT).

However, there is no telling whether the volcano has settled down or whether it will erupt again in the coming days.

Mount Etna has been periodically rearing its ugly head since February 16.

The explosion forced the nearby Catania Airport to temporarily close down as the runway was overrun with volcanic ash.

So far, there have been no reports of death or injury as the eruptions have been relatively weak.

At about 10,900ft (3,330m) in height, Etna is Europe’s tallest and most active volcano.

Scientists believe Etna emerged from the sea where it began as a subterranean volcano.

The volcano’s bouts of activity have been recorded by ancient Greek and Roman historians.

The Roman poet Virgin described Etna in the Aeneid, a poem telling the tale of the Trojan Aeneas.

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