Mount Etna put on a spectacular display of fire, lava and lightning, along with a cloud of ash, when it erupted on 3 December (Thursday). Volcanologists believe the minor eruption happened because of recent activity inside the Voragine crater, formed inside the volcano's central crater in 1945.

Europe's tallest volcano spewed lava and created a large saucer of ash, resulting in a number of flights being delayed. However, the main spectacle of the eruption was the "dirty storm", in which rock fragments collide with ice particles to send streaks of lightning bolts in a volcanic plume.

Several villages and towns dot the foothills of the active volcano and various safety measures have been put in place to protect them. Ditches and concrete dams divert the flow of lava away from the inhabited place.

Standing tall at 3,329m, Mount Etna has been active for 2.5m years. Scientists have found an increase in Etna's eruptions following the creation of the volcano's new south-east crater in the 1970s.