The eruption of Mount Etna closes Catania Airport in Sicily

CATANIA, Sicily (Reuters) – Flights serving the eastern Sicilian city of Catania were halted on Monday after a volcanic eruption from nearby Mount Etna created a new travel crisis for the beleaguered Italian airport, local authorities said.

The 3,330-meter (10,925-foot) volcano blasted into action throughout the night, spewing lava and ash high over the Mediterranean island. The pyroclastic flow subsided before dawn, but ash was still coming from one of the craters.

The airport operator said in a statement that flights to and from Catania, a popular tourist destination, would remain suspended until 6 a.m. (0400 GMT) on Tuesday morning, dashing hopes they could resume on Monday evening.

Passengers were advised to check with airlines before heading to the airport on Tuesday.

Incoming flights were diverted to other airports in Sicily on Monday. It is the height of the summer holiday season in Italy where Tuesday is a public holiday.

The mayor of Catania, Enrico Tarantino, banned the use of motorcycles and bicycles in the city for 48 hours, because many streets were covered in ash, and ordered cars to drive no faster than 30 km/h (19 mph) due to slippery conditions.

The latest cancellations at Catania Airport, which attracts more arrivals than the island’s capital, Palermo, came a month after a terminal fire led to weeks of disruption for commuters.

The last major eruption of Etna was in 1992.

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(Reporting by Crispian Palmer and Keith Weir) Editing by Conor Humphries

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