ORVIETO, Italy (VN) – Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, saw a sharp increase in activity last night between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. local time according to Agenzia Giornalistica Italia. The Giro d’Italia is scheduled to climb Etna twice during stage 9 on Sunday.
A pit crater opened upon on the volcano’s eastern side, and volcanic ash was spread over Catania and nearby villages. The airport in Catania has been closed as a precautionary measure, but is expected to open again by the end of the day.
Giro organizers remain confident that the volcano will not affect stage 9. “Sunday’s stage is not at risk,” Giro director Angelo Zomegnan said in a statement. “The stretch in question is only the last four kilometers on Etna.”
Zomegnan added that road cleaning crews are already on site, working to make the road passable. Even if road remains open, closed airspace could mean reduced or eliminated of TV coverage. There is also concern that the planned air transfer of riders north to Teramo could be grounded, forcing teams to transfer by land.
Mount Etna saw brief spurts of activity earlier this year, sending lava hundreds of feet into the air January 12 and again April 9 and 10. Both times saw the volcano come to rest within a few days.