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WATCH: Lava flows into the sea as Italy’s Stromboli volcano erupts

The volcano on the island of Stromboli erupted again on Monday morning, sending lava cascading into the sea and causing mini ‘tsunami’ waves.

WATCH: Lava flows into the sea as Italy’s Stromboli volcano erupts
Stromboli, one of Europe's most active volcanoes, is part of the seven-island Eolian Archipelago of Sicily in southern italy. Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP

Clouds of smoke covered the volcanic island of Stromboli again on Monday morning, but there were no reports of casualties or damage from the latest eruption, recorded at around 4am on Monday morning by Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

This followed an eruption on Sunday which led Italian civil protection authorities to raise the alert level from yellow to orange on the small island, which is part of the Aeolian archipelago off northern Sicily.

As with the eruption on Sunday, Monday morning’s explosion sent plumes of smoke and ash into the air and waves described as ‘mini tsunamis’ in local media.

Volcanologists said the eruption and fast-moving lava flow into the sea triggered seismic waves registered by the tsunami warning system.

A timelapse video of the eruption on Sunday shared by Marco Pistolesi, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Pisa, showed the dramatic moment a heavy stream of lava collided with the sea after a “partial collapse of the crater rim”.

The Stromboli volcano is one of the most active on the planet, and has been erupting almost continuously for the past 90 years.

Authorities on the island said they were well prepared for a major eruption.

“We are absolutely prepared,” Mayor of Lipari Riccardo Gullo told Italian news agency Adnkronos, adding that there were “about 600 people on the island, including residents and tourists” but that there was currently no cause for concern in the inhabited areas.

People were however advised to stay indoors and keep away from windows and glass doors as the civil protection agency raised the volcanic activity alert level from yellow to orange.

Boats were also warned to keep a greater distance from the coast, but Gullo stressed that ferry services to and from the island continued for now.

“We will evaluate if it is necessary to move some ships to ensure a possible evacuation of the island but I repeat: we are prepared,” he said.

“There has been no stop to the hydrofoils and tourists continue to arrive on the island to attend this show.”

In 2002 a huge explosion on Stromboli caused a tidal wave, and in 2019 a tourist died in a powerful eruption that covered the island in ash.

The island of Stromboli, 12 square kilometres (4.6 square miles) in area and 924 metres (3,000 feet) high, is just the top of a volcano that is largely underwater.

It is one of few in the world with almost continuous activity, according to INGV.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Etna and Stromboli: What are the risks of travelling to Sicily this summer?

As volcanic activity continues on the island of Sicily, could travellers this summer be faced with delays, diversions and flight interruptions?

Etna and Stromboli: What are the risks of travelling to Sicily this summer?

Two of Europe’s most active volcanos have blown their tops in the past week, with both Etna and Stromboli spewing hot lava and embers into Sicilian skies.

The Stromboli volcano, on a tiny volcanic island in the Aeolian archipelago off the northern coast of Sicily, belched fresh lava and smoke on Thursday in the latest in a string of eruptions.

Last Friday, July 5th, Stromboli erupted for the first time since 2022, with streams of lava reported to have reached the sea. 

Meanwhile the towering Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, also erupted in a fiery and dramatic display on July 4th.

The resulting thick layers of ash slowed down traffic on Catania’s busy streets and forced the grounding of flights at the city’s main airport, Vincenzo Bellini. Thousands of flight passengers were affected by delays and cancellations.

IN PICTURES: Mount Etna spews lava and rains ash in latest eruption

By Friday afternoon however, the airport runways were cleared of the thick black ash and departure and arrivals resumed.

Italy’s civil protection agency issued a red alert for the island, and out of an abundance of caution, put evacuation plans in place should the situation deteriorate.

Should you be worried about travelling to Sicily this summer?

In the aftermath of the recent eruptions, visitors with upcoming trips may be understandably concerned about how volcanic activity on the island might affect their plans.

The first thing to keep in mind is that eruptions of these two volcanoes are nothing new to residents. Sicilians have been dealing with the ongoing volcanic rumblings since as far back as 425 BCE.

Mount Etna dominates the eastern part of the island and this area is in fact home to more than 25 percent of the Sicilian population. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, it regularly emits plumes of ash and cascading rivers of lava.

Stromboli is meanwhile known for being one of the constantly active volcanoes in the world, according to Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

The 926-metre-high peak has been erupting on a regular basis for the last 90 years, however, the INGV generally considers Strombolian activity a low-level type of eruption, which, on average, releases a relatively modest amount of energy.

Until last week, the last time Stromboli erupted was in 2022 with no casualties reported. Prior to that, a 2019 explosion claimed the life of a hiker, who was reportedly struck by a piece of molten rock.

At the time of writing, the INGV has downgraded Etna’s risk level to orange due to a decrease in explosive activity and no ash clouds being produced. It reports that volcanic ash is now confined to the summit area only.

READ ALSO: Where are Italy’s active volcanoes and how dangerous are they?

Despite these flare-ups, Stromboli – made famous by the 1950 film by Italian director Roberto Rossellini – continues to be a popular destination for tourists with thousands of visitors arriving by boat each day.

Because more powerful explosions can create risky conditions in the upper part of the mountain and, to a lesser degree, inhabited areas, INGV points out that the island has two inhabited centres, Stromboli and Ginostra, situated in the north-eastern and south-western regions, respectively. 

There is also an acoustic warning system (sirens) that is activated with two different sounds in case of an impending eruption (two tones) or tsunami (one tone). 

How are flights affected by volcanic activity?

Airport closures due to volcanic activity are not uncommon in Sicily. 

According to the Civil Protection Department, Italy together with Iceland has the greatest concentration of active volcanoes in continental Europe. So it’s no wonder that Catania’s airport can shut down due to falling ash in its surrounding airspace. The last airport closure incidents happened in May and again in August 2023.

Given that Catania’s airport is closest to the ‘epicentre’ of the activity, it is more likely to be affected by closures than others in the region.

Travellers on flights to Catania, Sicily’s busiest airport, were last week unexpectedly redirected to land at Palermo’s Falcone-Borsellino airport instead – a whopping four-hour drive away.

But it is not just air transportation that can be disrupted by the effects of a volcano. Ground transportation services (trains and buses) can be thwarted temporarily due to poor visibility from ashfall, especially when coupled with rainfall, which can cause slippery conditions on the roads near the volcano. 

Worsening air quality is also a risk for individuals with chronic breathing issues such as asthma or COPD. 

During periods of ashfall, officials advise limiting exposure to the elements, at least until the air has cleared.

If you are planning to travel to affected areas of the island, you can find up-to-the-minute alerts on volcanic activity from the INGV here.

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