FLIGHTS in Italy have been canceled after an eruption of Mount Etna.
The mountain is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and spewed smoke and ash in a fresh eruption on Sunday, forcing the closure of a nearby airport in Sicily.
Catania Airport said in a statement: “Due to the eruption activity of Mount Etna and the large amounts of volcanic ash on the airport surfaces, flight operations will be suspended until safety conditions are restored.”
According to the daily Repubblica, loud rumblings could be heard in the region from early Sunday.
But heavy clouds around the volcano’s peak made it impossible to see the eruptions, the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said.
At 3,324 meters (nearly 11,000 feet), Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently over the past 500,000 years.
Around 10 million passengers traveled through Catania International Airport last year, which serves the eastern part of Sicily, one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations.
The eruption blanketed the airport in ash, and one affected passenger described it as “hell” inside.
Lucy Sophia was scheduled to depart from the airport, but her plans were foiled.
She tweeted: “Catania airport is HELL (and there’s ash everywhere outside). I can’t believe Etna decided to erupt.”
“I had a terrible time at the airport – no taxis, couldn’t get to the airline hotel and now have to look online for one.”
The cancellations continued throughout Sunday evening into Monday morning, although easyJet hinted flights could resume soon.
The airline continues to advise passengers to check airline websites for updates on their flights and said flights would be grounded further if safety remained uncertain.
They tweeted: “Catania Airport has advised that the runway should be cleared at 9:00 this morning.”
“If conditions are below operating standards, the flight will not operate as the safety of our passengers and crew is our top priority.”
According to the flight data company, yesterday the airport should have been the sixth busiest airport in Italy – with 253 scheduled departures and arrivals cirium.
They said that as of 5pm BST yesterday, 68 flights to and from Catania Airport had been cancelled.
A total of 44 departures from Catania were canceled, with Ryanair being the hardest hit with 23 canceled departures.
Seven outbound flights had to be canceled at ITA Airways and six at easyJet.
Meanwhile, 24 arrivals in Catania have also been canceled – with Ryanair, ITA Airways and easyJet again being the hardest-hit airlines.
Meanwhile, flights in France had to be canceled due to strikes earlier this month – and more flights could be grounded.
And Britons traveling to Spain this summer could also be hit by work stoppages.