AN airport in a popular European holiday hotspot has been forced to close because of an eruption of a nearby volcano.

The airport at Catania in Sicily, a top Italian tourist destination, has halted all flights after a new eruption at nearby Mount Etna, its operator said on Monday.

"Because of an eruption at Etna… all departures and arrivals are cancelled until 1:00 pm [1100 GMT]," the airport posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

At 3,324 metres (nearly 11,000 feet), Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe and has erupted frequently in the past 500,000 years.

Most recently, Catania airport was closed for a day on May 21 due to an eruption.

Around 10 million passengers last year transited through the airport, which services the eastern part of Sicily.

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It operates around 200 flights per day during the summer months.

The airport has been shut since 2.38am local time following the eruption, as a plume of ash spread across the eastern part of the island.

It has affected several flights to and from the UK, including a 6.30am easyJet flight from Gatwick, which is currently estimated to land at 8pm, almost 10 hours later than scheduled.

The airline issued an apology to passengers on their website.

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It reads: “We’re sorry that your flight has been delayed. This is because volcanic activity in Catania is causing restrictions to the areas in which aircraft are permitted to fly.

“The safety of you and our crew is our highest priority and we thank you for your patience.”

Other easyJet flights from Gatwick, Luton and Edinburgh have been cancelled.

A British Airways flight, also due to take off from Gatwick, at 7.10am has been cancelled, while several Ryanair flights have been diverted to Trapani airport.

The airline said: “Due to the eruption of Mount Etna, we would like to advise all passengers travelling to and from Catania on 14 August of possible delays, diversion or cancellations to flights.

“Affected passengers will be notified as soon as possible

“Ryanair apologises for the disruptions caused by this volcanic eruption which is outside of our control.”

It is not the first time this summer that Catania has had to close its airport.

A fire at the transport hub last month forced several airlines to scrap or divert flights for several days.

Palermo airport, also on the Italian island, also had to close temporarily due to wildfires burning dangerously close to its runway.

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