Volcano causes flight chaos

Volcano Lead

Flights to Europe from the United States
have been grounded due to a volcano eruption.

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano, under
a glacier in the South West of Iceland, began spewing out vast ash clouds on Wednesday,
14 April.

The subsequent plume, which rose to
somewhere between 20,000 and 36,000 feet, lies near the Atlantic Ocean flight
path and all flights to and from UK, plus many to mainland Europe, have been
affected.

Flights across the UK, Ireland
and Scandinavia have been cancelled due to the
ash cloud, which is drifting to the Southeast.

Airspace was closed over Denmark, Norway,
Sweden, Belgium, Ireland
and the United Kingdom,
leading to the cancellation of literally thousands of flights. UK
airports including Heathrow were closed Thursday. Heathrow alone deals with
1,200 flights and nearly 200,000 passengers daily.

Volatile

The knock-on effect has affected
flights originating in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
Eyjafjallajökull is an active volcano but which last erupted 189 years ago.

The immediate area around
Eyjafjallajökull  was beset by two
separate jökulhlaup – glacial floods – flowing north and south around the
glacier and flowing into the sea. Route One, the main Icelandic ringroad, was closed
in order to save bridges. Icebergs remain a threat to surrounding
infrastructure, according to volcano expert James Ashworth.

Mr Ashworth said that the fissure
beneath the ice could be 2 kilometres long and had breached the south wall of
the mountain’s summit crater. The smoke plume is comprised of ash and tiny bits
of volcanic rock called tephra.

He noted that the last eruption of
Eyjafjallajökull, in 1821, lasted for months and there is no way of knowing how
long this latest activity might last. Eruptions by their nature are volatile,
and more fissures could open up.

Instructions

Airlines have issued various
instructions for those affected by flights. In the first instance, passengers
are advised to check the website of their airline. United Airlines, for example,
have issued a travel waiver for all London
flights up to Friday, 16 April for tickets purchased before 14 April.

The British Airways website said
that flight BA0253 originating in Heathrow Friday and BA0252 originating in Grand Cayman toward Heathrow were Estimated.

“Following further information from
National Air Traffic Services about the path of the volcanic ash affecting all UK airspace and
airlines, there will be cancellations and delays to our schedule on Friday, 16
April.

“All British Airways shorthaul
flights into and out of the UK
will be cancelled until at least 9am on Friday. A number of longhaul flights
due to arrive in the UK
from 5.30am on Friday are also being delayed or cancelled. The decision to
cancel has been made for safety reasons and on the direction from Air Traffic
Control Service. [Passengers] are advised to check the status of your flight
before leaving for the airport,” it read.

Volcano Story

Eyjafjallajökull volcano sent plumes across Europe, grounding thousands of planes.
Photo: Iceland Coast Guard
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