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Major eruption of Italy's Etna volcano shuts down airport

Fire and hot ash erupted high into the sky from Sicily’s Mount Etna, Europe's highest active volcano, forcing the closure of an airport about 70 kilometers away. The eruption is the most dramatic in the past 20 years.

Flights to and from the Aeroporto dello Stretto in Reggio Calabria, which is separated from Sicily by the Strait of Messina, were diverted to nearby Lamezia Terme, German news agency dpa reported citing an airport information officer.

The eruption formed an ash column about seven kilometers high and caused lava to flow from the Voragine crater for the first time in two years, Rome-based National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV) said.

Most dramatic eruption in 20 years

The eruption, according to INGV, is among the most "energetic of the past 20 years."

INGV added that the volcanic ash triggered by the eruption was blown by winds in a north-easterly direction towards the cities of Linguaglossa, Francavilla di Sicilia, Milazzo, Messina and Reggio Calabria.

The Mount Etna, about 3300 meters high, is located on the eastern coast of Sicily. It is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world and is known to frequently produce small eruptions. Its last major eruption dates back to March, 1993 when the lava stream threatened to engulf Zafferana Etnea, one of the towns located on its slopes.

ap/ (AFP, dpa)

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