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 tracks.
Airport authorities announced that flights would be suspended until Monday at 9 a.m. local time (3 a.m. ET) due to the fallout from the eruption on Twitter. They later told CNN that flights are expected to resume at noon Monday (6 am ET).
Volcanic ash at Nicolosi, near Catania
Images and videos show black volcanic ash covering planes at the airport and roads in the area.
The ash was produced by a paroxysmal eruption that sent lava fountains more than 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) into the air, Boris Behncke, a volcanologist at the Etna observatory at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, told CNN.
The observatory said in a statement that the eruptive phase ended around 9 p.m. Sunday, but it could not predict when a new phase might begin.
Cars in Nicolosi on May 21
Volcanic ash clouds are a serious hazard to aviation, reducing visibility, damaging flight controls, and ultimately causing jet engine failure.
In 2010, a volcanic eruption in Iceland sent a large plume of ash drifting across the Atlantic, causing massive disruption to air traffic in western Europe.
In the aftermath of the crisis, international aviation regulators introduced new risk management guidance on flight safety and volcanic ash.
Mount Etna is the most active volcano in Europe, and also the highest, at about 3,350 meters (almost 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 constantly changing landscape as lava hardens, craters collapse, and in some cases are created.
It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Sicily, and visitors can scale the volcano or take a cable car that connects with a 4×4 bus to take visitors to the 2800 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 rocks raining down on them, the group ran to a nearby rescue vehicle that took them to safety. Ten people were injured, but none seriously, Italian news agency Ansa reported at the time.