Volcanic ash still causing air chaos

Flights across much of Europe will
be severely disrupted well into Saturday because of drifting ash ejected from a
volcano in Iceland, officials said.

Much of the airspace across
northern and western Europe has been closed, and air control officials said
some 17,000 flights would be cancelled today.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers
in Europe and around the world have been affected.

Scientists say the volcano is still
erupting but producing less ash.

Europe’s intergovernmental air
control agency, Eurocontrol, said it “expects around 11,000 flights to
take place today in European airspace. On a normal day, we would expect
28,000.”

Of about 300 transatlantic flights
that would usually arrive in Europe in the morning, no more than 120 made it
over, the agency said.

“Forecasts suggest that the
cloud of volcanic ash is continuing to move east and south-east and that the
impact will continue for at least the next 24 hours,” it said in a
statement.

Britain’s air traffic control body
extended its unprecedented restrictions on UK airspace until at least 0100 BST
(0000 GMT) on Saturday.

The UK, Irish Republic, Denmark,
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands closed their airspace on
Thursday.

France shut down 24 airports in the
north of the country, including the main hub of Paris-Charles de Gaulle, while
Germany had closed most of its airports by Friday morning.

The Baltic states of Lithuania,
Latvia and Estonia also closed their airspace.

Poland closed most of its airports
on Friday and Austrian officials said they would have to start closing their
country’s airspace from late afternoon.

Czech authorities began to impose
restrictions on Friday as well, adding that a complete closure was likely to
follow.

But as the volcanic ash began
drifting south, Sweden began reopening its northern airspace. Officials said
restrictions further south would be lifted gradually on Friday. Norway allowed
some flights in the north as well.

The Irish Republic also opened its
airspace apart from a block off the south coast, putting Dublin, Shannon and
Cork airports back into operation.

Qantas, Japan Airlines, Korean Air,
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are among airlines which have cancelled
long-haul flights to Europe.

Qantas spokesman David Epstein said
it might take until Sunday for flights to resume.

WORLDashSTORY

Smoke and ash from the volcano underneath Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull glacier continues to disrupt flights across Europe
Photo: Brent Fuller
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