Mount Etna eruption scatters ash on US Navy base in Sicily, closing some facilities
Stars and Stripes May 22, 2023
NAPLES, Italy — Naval Air Station Sigonella temporarily closed its runway over the weekend following the eruption of Italy’s most active and powerful volcano in eastern Sicily, officials said Monday.
A base statement in response to a query didn’t detail how long it took to remove ash on the runway following the eruption of Mount Etna on Sunday. It also didn’t say whether flight operations had resumed.
“Any aircraft that were outside of their hangars underwent inspection to ensure they were fit for flight,” Lt. Drake Greer, a NAS Sigonella spokesman, said in an email to Stars and Stripes.
The base is home to more than 34 commands and activities, including U.S. 6th Fleet, NATO and special operations units. The 11,013-foot-tall volcano is about 25 miles north of the base.
Some facilities, including two pools and a skate park, were closed because of ash, the base’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office said Monday in a post on its Facebook page.
Sunday’s event saw ash and rocks from the volcano spread across much of the island’s eastern side. The airport in Catania, about 13 miles northeast of NAS Sigonella, resumed flights Monday morning following a suspension the day before, the airport announced in a tweet. The airport told passengers to expect some service limitations and delays.
NAS Sigonella emergency operations and management officials previously have said that ashfall from Mount Etna is a threat not only to aircraft and runways but also to flat-roofed buildings on the base.
Ash also can enter buildings through heating and ventilation systems, they said.
The base monitors for volcanic activity, earthquakes and other natural disasters and has several plans in place to address Mount Etna eruptions. Those include grounding aircraft and securing them to prevent damage, officials told Stars and Stripes in November 2021.
On Sunday, lava flow was evident from the volcano’s southeast crater, but observations were limited by cloud cover, the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology said in a statement that day.