Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, erupted on Sunday, August 14, 2023, sending a plume of ash and smoke into the sky and forcing the closure of Catania airport, the second-largest airport in Sicily.
The eruption began around 10:00 PM local time and lasted for several hours. Ash and smoke from the eruption reached heights of up to 12,000 feet, and the ash cloud spread over a large area of Sicily.
The ash cloud from the eruption caused visibility to be reduced to just a few hundred feet at Catania airport, making it unsafe for flights to operate. As a result, all flights to and from Catania airport were cancelled.
The eruption also caused disruption to travel on the ground in the Catania area. Roads were covered in ash, and visibility was reduced. The mayor of Catania banned the use of motorcycles and bicycles in the city for 48 hours, and ordered cars to drive no faster than 30 kph (19 mph).
The eruption of Mount Etna is not unusual. The volcano erupts every few years, and sometimes more frequently. However, this eruption was the most powerful in several years, and it caused significant disruption to travel in Sicily.
It is unclear when Catania airport will reopen. The airport operator said that it will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so. In the meantime, passengers are advised to check with their airlines for information about their flights.