Flights grounded near Sicily as Mount Etna spews ash after eruption –

Dozens of flights were grounded Monday as Mount Etna spewed ash after erupting the evening prior. Photo by Orietta Scardino/EPA-EFE

Aug. 14 (UPI) — Flights near Italy’s Mount Etna volcano, the largest and tallest in Europe, were shut down Monday as the volcano continued to spew ash after erupting the evening prior.

As of 6 p.m. local time, 77 flights at Catania-Fontanarossa Airport were canceled and 25 more had been delayed, according to flight tracker FlightAware.

“Due to Etna’s eruptive activity and fallout of volcanic ash, flight operations are suspended until 8 p.m.,” the airport said in a statement.

The 10,925-foot volcano near Sicily caused the disruption right before Italy’s biggest national holiday, Ferragosto, which will be celebrated on Tuesday.

The few flights that were not canceled were diverted to other airports. Some were diverted to Trapani airport, which is about a four-hour drive from Catania.

Lava flow from the volcano had stopped by Monday morning but it continued to send ash into the air.

Sicily banned the use of motorcycles and bicycles for 48 hours and ordered motorists to drive slower than 19 mph as the streets were covered with ash.

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