Ash rains down on towns as Etna keeps up its spectacular explosions

Mount Etna, Italy

A particularly spectacular blast from Italy’s Mount Etna volcano has sent out a towering cloud of ash and lava stone onto Sicilian villages, the latest in a series of explosions since mid-February.

Italy’s national geophysics and volcanology institute INGV said the powerful explosion was the 10th such big blast since February 16, when Europe’s most active volcano started giving off an impressive demonstration of nature’s fire power, colouring the night sky in shocking hues of orange and red.

Increasing tremors rattled the mountain throughout much of the night.

Ash and small lava stones rained down on eight villages on Etna’s slopes on Sunday morning, while lava flowed from the south-east crater slowly down an uninhabited side, as it has been doing for the last three weeks, the institute said.

The column of ash and lava reached a height of 33,000 feet on Sunday, according to scientists who monitor volcanic activity with special instruments from an observatory at Etna in eastern Sicily.

Locals swept ash and lava stones from their front steps and balconies. They have taken to covering cars parked outdoors with carpets, blankets and sheets of cardboard to make cleaning up easier after each blast. Winds helped carry the ash eastwards, the INGV said.

No injuries or serious damage have been reported after the recent blasts. Geologically active, Etna occasionally becomes particularly noisy and explosive as it has been lately.

By mid-morning, Etna’s latest display of activity had slowed somewhat with the lava flow ending, although the volcano was still puffing out a “weak emission of ash” from the south-east crater. A few hours later, the volcanic tremors picked up again, INGV said in a statement.

The INGV scientists say there is no way of predicting when this current round of particularly robust volcanic activity might subside.

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