Italy's Mount Etna lit up the night sky with bursts of sweltering hot lava overnight, as the Sicilian volcano lurched into activity.

The overnight eruptions led to rivers of smoking red lava streaming down the southeastern slope of Europe's highest and most active volcano.

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At around 3am local time (2am Irish time) a small effusive fissure opened on the southeastern crater and generated a small lava flow.

Seismic activity started to rise yesterday evening, peaked around midnight and decreased in the following hours.

The 3,330-metre-high volcano can burst into spectacular action several times a year, spewing lava and ash high over the Mediterranean island.

The last major eruption was in 1992.