Mount Etna And Stromboli Eruptions Leave Behind Red Alerts And Travel Chaos

By: David Donovan | Last updated: Jul 16, 2024

On Sicily, a Mediterranean island, the level of alert has been raised due to eruptions at Italy’s Mount Etna and Stromboli volcanoes.

Action at the 10,905ft volcano – Europe’s most elevated – has expanded significantly in the most recent 24 hours. 

Incredible Force

The largest crater on Etna was photographed spewing lava with incredible force.

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Mt Etna, with Catania in the foreground

Wikimedia Commons user BenAveling

Nearby Catania Airport, Sicily’s primary international gateway, has seen dozens of flights canceled or delayed, affecting approximately 15,000 passengers.

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Flight Cancellations

Ryanair had to cancel 42 flights within Italy, including those to Rome, Venice, Pisa, and Bergamo. 

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Catania airport exterior with cars outside of it

Wikimedia Commons user Walter J. Rotelmayer

EasyJet had to cancel connections to London, Milan, and Napoli.

Redirections

In the interim, a few flights have been redirected to Palermo, a four-hour drive away.

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Catania airport with Mount Etna visible in the background

Wikimedia Commons user sailko

Services will be disrupted for the remainder of today, but Catania Airport will not comment on the situation at this time.

Etna Observatory

Etna’s Observatory (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV)) has issued a red warning. 

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Mauna Kea Observatory, Waimea, at night showing the stars above

Unsplash user Conner Baker

This indicates that the situation could worsen over the coming days.

Activity Warning

It warned that Strombolian activity in the Voragine crater had experienced a “gradual increase” at 8 pm on Wednesday.

Aerial image of Stromboli (view from the northeast); to the right, the Sciara del Fuoco located in the northwestern part of the island can be seen; the island of Panarea can be seen in the background

Wikimedia Commons user Carsten Steger

The Foreign Office in the UK has provided an update on its advice regarding traveling to Sicily.

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The Eruption Has Lit Up The Sky

New photos of the eruption shows red hot lava spewing out of the volcano’s mouth, lighting up the Sicilian sky with magma.

Mount Etna erupts in the night with lava fountains one kilometer high and a column of ash over 10 km high heading towards nearby Tyrrhenian on February 23, 2021 in Catania, Italy.

Getty Images

Plumes of smoke rose from the site of the eruption. The eruption came from the Voragine, one of the volcano’s largest craters. Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the tallest active volcano in Europe.

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Eruption Advice

The alert levels for both Stromboli and Etna in the south of Italy have been raised by local authorities as a result of volcanic activity.

The Island of Stromboli, Shot 2004 Sep 28 during an eruption

Steven W. Dengler

It is encouraged to follow the directions given by authorities in your area in the event of a volcanic eruption.

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New Paroxysm In The Voragine Crater

Volcano Discovery has reported that a new paroxysm had started on Mount Etna on the 15th.

Mount Etna eruption.

Source: Fabrizio Villa/Gettyimages

A paroxysm is when the volcano starts to spurt tall fountains of lava. The current fountaining is happening from the Voragine crater, where most of the volcanic activity has been happening in this eruption. Mild activity had started in the evening with a volcanic tremor, but the activity has since restarted and intensified.

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One Life Has Already Been Taken By The Eruption

A 55-year-old American tourist has died since the eruption. The man was rescued by Italy’s alpine rescue service while on an excursion on the southern side of Mount Etna.

Mount Etna in background of Sicilian town.

Source: Unsplash+/Unsplash

Rescuers have not yet established the cause of the tourist’s illness. He was pronounced dead at the scene when the rescue team found him in a remote area. The rescuers have warned that high temperatures and increased humidity may be dangerous for tourists.

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Airspace Impact

Eruptions can affect the airspace as has been observed over the years from several eruptions. 

white airliner on runway with planes and hangers in the background

Unsplash user Ivan Shimko

Check with your travel agent or Catania airport if you are traveling to or from Catania during this time of increased activity.

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INGV Statement

INGV elaborated in a statement: “The average amplitude of the volcanic tremor, after a gradual increase observed starting from 8pm yesterday, has reached the high level, with an increasing trend.”

SIGONELLA, Italy (Feb. 16, 2021) Mt. Etna lets off some steam in the background of P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft assigned to the "Grey Knights" of Patrol Squadron (VP) 46, Feb. 16, 2021.

Flickr user usnavy

This is not a one-time occurrence, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Department. 

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Foreign Offices Have Warned Tourists

Not only have Italian authorities warned tourists to take extra precautions when at this vacation hotspot, so have the foreign offices of countries where their citizens often travel to Sicily for the summer.

Drone picture of Mount Etna.

Source: Pelalion/Wikimedia Commons

The UK Foreign Office warned: “Due to volcanic activity, local authorities have increased the alert levels for both Etna and Stromboli in the south of Italy. In the event of a volcanic eruption, following the advice of local authorities.”

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Mount Etna Eruptions

In recent decades, Mount Etna has erupted multiple times.

Mount Etna viewed from the south. The smoking peak is in the upper left, a trekker cabin in the lower right.

Wikimedia Commons user Wilson44691

Just a few days ago, Stromboli and Etna were spewing hot ash and lava, necessitating the airport’s temporary closure.

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Stromboli Volcano Is Also Causing Problems

Mount Etna is not the only eruption causing problems for Sicilian locals and tourists. Italy’s Civil Protection Department issued a red alert after the eruption of Stromboli volcano and raised the threat from moderate to severe.

Stromboli Volcano eruption.

Source: Sergio Cima/Unsplash

This was because the authorities were noticing “rapid developments” in the volcano’s behaviour. With lava spilling into the sea, Stromboli’s volcano has been generating plumes of smoke reaching over a mile high.

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Social Media

Videos shared via social media on Friday highlighting the extent of the damage. 

House destroyed by lava on the slopes of Etna.

Wikimedia Commons user Hajotthu

They showed the roads of central Catania and vehicles covered in thick layers of black ash, causing traffic delays.

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Two Sides Of The Same Event

While some took to social media to show the extent of the damage caused by Mount Etna’s eruption, others were more in awe by its natural beauty.

Mount Etna from Catania.

Source: Unsplash+/Unsplash

Blogger, Luigi Pistarà tweeted: “Last night, Mount Etna put on a show that was out of this world! The fiery eruption aligned perfectly with the Milky Way, creating a celestial spectacle that was truly breathtaking. Who knew that Mother Nature could be such a skilled cosmic photographer?”

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The Mayor Of Catania Has Imposed A New Speed Limit

Due to the frequency of the volcanic activity in Catania, tourists and locals alike usually remain undisturbed.

Enrico Trantino, Mayor of Catania.

Source: Fabrizio Villa/Gettyimages

The mayor of Catania, Enrico Trantino, has issued an order banning people from using two-wheeled forms of transport for 48 hours. Trantino also set a speed limit of 18 miles per hour due to the dangers of driving on volcanic ash that might be strewn across the roads.

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Tourist Advice

Tourists have been told to stay away from areas around the volcano craters. 

Southern flank of Mount Etna showing lateral cones and flow from eruption of 2001.

Wikimedia Commons user Wilson44691

Additionally, they have been advised to listen to the government on the radio and television.

Italy, alongside Iceland, has the largest concentration of active volcanoes found in Europe.

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Italy's Civil Protection Department Doubles Down On Warnings

Italy’s Civil Protection Department said that alongside Iceland, their high concentration of active volcanoes means that the country is “one of the first in the world for the number of inhabitants exposed to volcanic risk”.

Smoke rising from Mount Etna.

Source: Giuseppe Papa/Wikimedia Commons

The CPD also said: “It is dangerous to approach the crater area even if there is no eruptive activity as sudden explosive phenomena or gas emissions are always possible.”

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Stromboli Has Been A Threat To Tourists

Stromboli is an island just off Sicily that barely covers five square miles in area. The top of the volcano makes up most of the island, while most of it is underwater. The volcano has been erupting continuously for about 90 years.

Eruption of Stromboli volcano

Source: Federico Di Dio photography/Unsplash

While the eruptions have not caused too many problems, an eruption in 2019 caused the death of a 35-year-old hiker and forced 30 tourists to jump into the sea for safety.

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Tourists May Not Be Equipped For Climbing

A spokesman for the alpine rescue service in Sicily, Alfio Ferrara, has warned that “tourists who participate in these excursions should not underestimate the risks related to high temperatures, strong humidity and the sudden jump in altitude”.

Mount Etna eruption.

Source: Piermanuele Sberni/Unsplash

Ferrara said that tourists often take on mountain excursions that reach 6,500 to 9,800 feet in altitude after spending all day at the beach.

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The Eruption Exacerbates Current Heatwaves In Europe

Mount Etna’s eruption could not come at a worse time. Prior to the spike in volcanic activity, parts of central and southern Europe were already enduring sweltering heat.

Electric fan.

Source: George Chandrinos/Unsplash

The current heatwaves in the areas affected have temperatures skyrocketing towards 104 degrees in some places. The Italian authorities have warned people to be extra careful, to drive carefully, and stay inside during peak hours.

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Tourists Should Proceed With Caution

If two simultaneous volcano eruptions are not enough to put you off ticking Sicily off your bucket list, then prepare for a little bit of chaos.

Deckchairs on the beach.

Source: Roman Raizen/Unsplash

For tourists who are still going, make sure you can easily receive updated information about your flights there and back, and listen out for any notifications from the local authority. While you may have to give mountaineering a miss, the authorities are well prepared.

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