A particularly spectacular blast from Italy's Mount Etna volcano belched out a towering cloud of ash and lava stone Sunday onto Sicilian villages, the latest in a series of explosions since mid-February.
Italy's national geophysics and volcanology institute INGV said the powerful explosion at 2 a.m. local time was the 10th such big blast since February 16, when Europe's most active volcano started giving off an impressive demonstration of nature's fire power, coloring the night sky in hues of orange and red.
Increasing tremors rattled the mountain throughout much of the night. Ash and small lava stones rained down on eight villages on Etna's slopes Sunday morning, while lava flowed from the southeast crater slowly down an uninhabited side, as it has been doing for the last three weeks, the institute said.
The column of ash and lava reached a height of 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) on Sunday, according to scientists who monitor volcanic activity with specialized instruments from an observatory at Etna in eastern Sicily.
Locals swept ash and lava stones from their front steps and balconies. They have taken to covering cars parked outdoors with carpets, blankets and sheets of cardboard to make cleanup easier after each blast. Winds helped carry the ash eastward, INGV said.
No injuries or serious damage have been reported after the recent blasts. Geologically active, Etna occasionally becomes particularly noisy and explosive as it has been lately.
By midmorning, Etna's latest display of activity had slowed somewhat with the lava flow ending, although the volcano was still puffing out a "weak emission of ash" from the southeast crater. A few hours later, the volcanic tremors picked up again, the INGV said in a statement.
The INGV scientists say there is no way of predicting when this current round of particularly robust volcanic activity might subside.