Europe’s largest and most active volcano, Mount Etna, is spewing columns of smoke and sending lava cascading down its mountainside during its latest eruption.

The Mount Etna observatory says lava and ash are spewing from a new fracture on the active Sicilian volcano amid an unusually high level of seismic activity.

Mount Etna or Mongibello has over the last few weeks been shooting clouds of ash and column into the air during on of its frequent eruptions
Mount Etna or Mongibello has over the last few weeks been shooting clouds of ash and column into the air during on of its frequent eruptions

Mount Etna, which looms above the city of Catania in Sicily, has been steadily erupting over the last month, with hoards of people heading to the volcano to capture stunning photographs and video of molten rock lighting up its snowy slopes. 

A smoke column comes out of the Etna volcano in Catania, Italy, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. The Mount Etna observatory says lava and ash are spewing from a new fracture on the active Sicilian volcano amid an unusually high level of seismic activity. (Orietta Scardino/ANSA via AP)

Etna, or ‘Mongibello’, erupts frequently but rarely poses a threat to humans. According to the website Volcano Discovery, its historical volcanism has been documented for around 2000 years, dating back to 1500BC. 

Mt Etna - Europe's largest and most active volcano - is emitting a huge cloud of smoke into the sky above Sicily
Mt Etna – Europe’s largest and most active volcano – is emitting a huge cloud of smoke into the sky above Sicily

At almost 11,000 ft, Etna is Italy’s highest point south of the Alps and Europe’s highest active volcano, being about two and a half times the height of Mount Vesuvius, near Naples.

The Etna observatory said a swarm of 130 tremors have been recorded by Monday midday, the most powerful registering a magnitude of 4.0. It reported lava flows from the volcano and said a new fracture had opened near its southeast crater.

The Mount Etna observatory says lava and ash are spewing from a new fracture on the active Sicilian volcano amid an unusually high level of seismic activity
The Mount Etna observatory says lava and ash are spewing from a new fracture on the active Sicilian volcano amid an unusually high level of seismic activity

The owner of a refuge on the volcano says hikers are being brought down from higher elevations to 1,900 meters (6,230 feet) for their safety. But there are no reports of injuries, and so far the spewing ash was not causing disruptions to residents of nearby towns and cities.

Mount Etna is in an near constant state of activity but its relatively frequent eruptions very rarely affect civilians
Mount Etna is in an near constant state of activity but its relatively frequent eruptions very rarely affect civilians

It is also the second most productive volcano on the planet, after Kilauea on Hawaii. Each year, the 700,000-year old and 24-mile wide volcano produces enough lava to fill a 108-story skyscrapers, spewing tonnes of molten rock across the island of Sicily. 

According to the website Volcano Discovery, Etna's historical volcanism has been documented for around 2000 years, dating back to 1500BC
According to the website Volcano Discovery, Etna’s historical volcanism has been documented for around 2000 years, dating back to 1500BC

Etna, the largest of Italy’s three active volcanoes, has been particularly active since July.

Source: The Associated Press & Daily Mail