Italy's Etna spews smoke and ashes, closing airport

Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years. PHOTO: REUTERS

CATANIA (AFP) - Mount Etna, one of the world's most active volcanoes, belched smoke and ashes in a new eruption on Monday (Feb 21), briefly forcing the closure of the airport of Catania in Sicily.

The ash cloud rose 10 kilometres into the air above a crater on the southeast of the volcano, the INGV National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology said on Twitter.

The nearby Vincenzo Bellini international airport in Catania closed at lunchtime Monday. Although it reopened after about two hours, it warned of delays.

Ash covered roads, balconies and the roofs of towns nearby, Italy's civil protection agency said.

The INGV said it had recorded a gradual rise in volcanic-seismic tremor - induced by escaping gases - which could be a sign Etna is heading towards another spectacular burst of fiery lava fountaining, known as paroxysmal activity.

At 3,324 metres, Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years.

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