Disasters & Accidents

Mt. Etna erupts, covering several towns in Sicily with ash

Rome, Mar 7 (efe-epa).- A new eruption of Mt. Etna, the massive volcano in northeastern Sicily, on Sunday covered dozens of local towns and cities with black ash and spewed-out stones, and authorities on the large Italian island declared a regional state of emergency and requested help from the national government in Rome.

Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano, erupted for the 10th time since Feb. 16, its southeastern crater blasting out lava and a thick cloud of ash that was captured in photos by locals on the ground and also by satellites of the European Space Agency.

The ash blanketed dozens of towns between the volcano’s eastern slope and the Mediterranean Sea, including Sant’Alfio, Giarre, Linguaglossa and Mascali, the area local authorities have dubbed the “black zone” due to the color of the ash and grit raining down throughout the area.

The cascade of ash and pyroclastic material has caused problems and delays along a stretch of highway between the cities of Messina and Catania.

Sicily’s governor, Nello Musumeci, declared a regional state of emergency and called on the Rome government for aid after holding a meeting with the Civil Protection authority, which is monitoring the area and conducting an ongoing evaluation of the situation.

Musumeci announced the immediate disbursement of one million euros (about $1.2 million) to help the affected towns and the opening of bidding leading to the government’s purchase of breathing equipment to protect people from inhaling the ash.

In addition, he tasked health advisor Ruggero Razza with determining whether the volcanic ash could harm local residents’ health, saying that “Prudence is never enough.”

The official in charge of Sicily’s infrastructure and transportation, Marco Falcone, posted on the social networks images of some of the towns he visited, such as Riposto, where the ground is covered with black ash and volcanic pebbles and gravel.

He said that to reduce the problems with mobility and traffic circulation he had ordered that roadway tolls be waived throughout the region until the situation returns to normal.

The emergency has not affected the nearby city of Catania or its airport, although that often occurs when Etna erupts, since the wind has been pushing the volcanic cloud emanating from the mountain to the east and not to the south, where the coastal city is located.

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