A new flank eruption, the first in nearly 11 years, has begun at Mount Etna, Italy on December 24, 2018, forcing authorities to raise the Aviation Color Code to Red.
An intense earthquake swarm started at the volcano at 07:50 UTC, with more than 130 earthquakes in the first three hours. The largest was M4.0 at 12:08 UTC, located on the NE side of the volcano at a depth of 2 km (1.2 miles).
The seismic activity was accompanied by a gradual increase in the degassing from the summit, initially with sporadic ash emissions emitted by the Bocca Nuova and the NE Crater which culminated at about 11:00 UTC with increased explosive activity and a continuous dense plume of dark ash.
According to the Toulouse VAAC, volcanic ash cloud is rising up to 5.5 km (18 000 feet) above sea level.
The Catania Airport was partially closed at 13:00 UTC (14:00 CET), following an emergency meeting held at 12:00 UTC. All incoming flights were diverted to other airports, while all parked aircraft were expected to departure if conditions allow. All travelers need to check the status of their flights by contacting individual airlines or Catania Airport website.
Intense Strombolian activity began at the southern base of the New SE Crater, probably triggered by an eruptive fissure, INGV volcanologists said. At the same time, Strombolian activity was further increased also at the Bocca Nuova and the Northeast Crater.
A large lava flow is descending from a new fissure vent at the New SE crater on the upper Valle del Bove.
The GPS and clinometric geodetical networks show conspicuous deformations of the summit area.
The Osservatorio Etneo is continuously monitoring the evolution of this eruption and is in close contact with the Department of Civil Protection (DPC) and all Civil Protection Authorities.
Featured image: Volcanic ash rising above Mount Etna on December 24, 2018