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Europe on Edge as Volcanic Eruptions Feared in Italy and Iceland

Volcanic eruptions
 File photo of Mount Etna eruption in 2021. Etna is the most active volcano in Europe. Credit: U.S. Navy, CC BY 2.0

Europe is on edge over possible volcanic eruptions at Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, and at the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland.

Italy’s Mount Etna shot lava into the sky on Sunday, 12 November, spewing ash high over the Mediterranean island of Sicily.

According to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, “the height of the eruptive column is estimated to be about 4500m above sea level.”

Catania Airport nearby remained open despite the volcano’s activity and ash precipitation.

It shut in August due to an ash cloud from an Etna eruption.

As one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, Mount Etna has been in an almost constant state of activity for the last ten years.

Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations. In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Recently scientists warned that the mountain is slipping eastwards into the sea, expressing fears that it could trigger a catastrophic tsunami.

Scientists are concerned that the slow movements that have been measured on Mount Etna’s southeastern flank could escalate and result in its partial collapse into the water.

Such an event would place Sicily and the Ionian Sea at risk as debris would enter the surrounding ocean, possibly causing devastating waves.

Fears of volcanic eruptions in Iceland

Iceland is in a state of emergency as experts say earthquakes that have been rumbling beneath the surface for days and have torn through a town are a precursor to a volcanic eruption.

More than 700 quakes have been recorded in the southwestern Reykjanes Peninsula since yesterday, and despite them being slightly weaker than in previous days the Fagradalsfjall volcano is still expected to erupt.

Iceland has been shaken by thousands of tremors over the past few days, with a state of emergency declared on Friday and around 4,000 people ordered to leave the town of Grindavik.

Authorities are urgently preparing to build defence walls around a nearby geothermal power plant which they desperately hope will protect it from lava flows – amid concerns that a volcanic eruption could be imminent.

Magma has been accumulating under the town and experts said yesterday that a ‘corridor’ around nine miles (14km) long has developed beneath it, with an eruption possible anywhere along the intrusion.

Fears have been mounting that an eruption could see a repeat of the chaos caused by the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption, however volcanologists have said that Fagradalsfjall would not produce a huge ash cloud as it did if it does blow.

Between March and June 2010 a series of volcanic events at Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland caused enormous disruption to air travel across Western Europe.

The disruptions started over an initial period of six days in April 2010. Additional localized disruption continued into May 2010, and eruptive activity persisted until June 2010. The eruption was declared officially over in October 2010, after 3 months of inactivity, when snow on the glacier did not melt.

From 14 to 20 April, ash from the volcanic eruption covered large areas of Northern Europe. About 20 countries closed their airspace to commercial jet traffic and it affected approximately 10 million travellers.

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