February 22, 2021, the latest Mount Etna eruption lit Sicily’s night skies sending plumes of smoke and 1,500 meter fountains of lava for the fifth time this week.
Footage of Europe’s most active volcano shows that in recent weeks Mount Etna has been spewing magma and copious showers of ash reaching as far as Catania, where the last major eruptions were recorded in 1992.
Experts say that Mount Etna’s latest eruptions are part of Strombolian eruptions, which is the normal activity of more than 3,300-metre-high volcano.
Eruptions of Mount Etna rarely cause injury or damage in recent decades; officials believe this holds true for this series of eruptions.
What are Volcanic Eruptions? And How Devastating Can They Be?
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, volcanic eruptions are geophysical hazards when lava and gas are discharged from volcanic vents.
‘Glowing Avalanche’ is the most dangerous type of eruption where freshly erupted magma forms pyroclastic flow with temperatures up to 1,200 degrees. Pyroclastic flow forms when rock fragments follow volcanic explosions. The flow then surges down at speeds of up to several hundred kilometers per hour to distances of 10-40 kilometers from the original site.
A study by the United Nations found volcanic eruptions between 1995-2015 cost $152.6 billion in damages, which is roughly $7.6 billion in damages annually.
The Devastation of Mount Etna
Mount Etna, which stands at 3,350 meters, first erupted on February 16, sending fountains of lava at roughly 2,300 ft into the sky. Footage of the eruption shows that ash and plumes of smoke choking out the sky before settling in nearby towns, including Catania.
As a result, volcanic ash caused Catania Airport to shut down, causing hundred of grounded flights temporarily.
Lava flows streamed from Mount Etna’s crater traveling as far as 2.5 miles eastward into the Valle del Bove valley.
“We’ve seen worse,” says Stefano Branco, head of the National Institue for Geophysics and Volcanology.
Areas surrounding the crater were secured on February 23rd with no report of injuries or fatalities. Nearby residents and municipal teams spent days cleaning up a Sicilian village near the active volcano following the eruptions.
Despite officials largely expecting volcanic activity on Tuesday, residents expressed concerns that the eruption was unusual due to big chunks of volcanic stone carpeting the area instead of ash.
Letizia Olivieri, a resident, tells ABC News, “It was a rain of stones. Something I never saw in my entire life.”
Pedara Mayor Alfio Cristaudo says that the village is currently in emergency mode due to the extent of Mount Etna’s eruptions. He explains that the entire territory of Pedara has been covered with volcanic ashes and lapillus.
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