Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcano in Iceland make closing Airport Accross Europe

British authorities said Friday there would be no flights over English airspace until early Saturday morning at the earliest, and Germany’s civil aviation authority said at least 12 of the country’s 16 airports had been closed — including Frankfurt, a major hub for Lufthansa; as well as Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Hannover, Dortmund, Cologne, Leipzig and Münster-Osnabrück.

Eurocontrol said it expected more than 60 percent of the 28,000 scheduled flights across Europe would be cancelled on Friday. Of the 300 flights that would usually arrive in Europe in the morning, only about one third arrived Friday, Eurocontrol said.

The massive plume, caused by the eruption Wednesday of a glacial volcano in Iceland, was drifting slowly eastward on Friday over central Europe and western Russia.

Eurocontrol said that much of Polish airspace, including the Warsaw airport, was now closed and said the region would likely continue to face severe disruptions to air travel for at least another 24 hours.

It was not immediately clear if the cloud would affect world leaders planning to attend the state funeral on Sunday of President Lech Kaczynski of Poland and his wife, who were killed last week in a plane crash. The White House had said before the volcano erupted that President Obama would depart Washington on Saturday evening to fly to Krakow, Poland, for the funeral.While satellite photographs from above showed the cloud to be dark and menacing, it remained largely invisible for many people on the ground in Europe. Made up of minute particles of silicate that can disable jet engines, the cloud forced the closure of some of the world’s busiest airports, including Heathrow and Gatwick in Britain; Charles de Gaulle and Orly in Paris; the airport in Frankfurt; and hubs in Ireland, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

There were hopes that some of European airports would reopen Friday afternoon as the ash cloud dissipated. But Britain’s National Air Traffic Service said Friday that restrictions on flights in English-controlled airspace would remain in effect until 1 a.m Saturday “at the earliest.”

The agency noted that some airspace closures had been lifted in Northern Ireland and the northern parts of Scotland, and that some airports — including Glasgow — had reopened and would remain so until 7 p.m. But the bulk of Britain’s airports, including London, would remain closed.

“In general, the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty,” the agency said. Britain had closed its entire airspace on Thursday, effectively severing links to, from and across some of the world’s busiest aviation routes. The closing represented the country’s most drastic peacetime flight restriction, aviation experts said.

About 6,000 scheduled flights use British airspace in an average day, the experts said. The volcano erupted Wednesday for the second time in a month, forcing evacuations and causing flooding about 75 miles east of Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital. Matthew Watson, a specialist at Bristol University in England in the study of volcanic ash clouds, said the plume was “likely to end up over Belgium, Germany, the Lowlands — a good portion over Europe,” and was unlikely to dissipate quickly.

The ash from the volcano, Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced EYE-a-fyat-la-jo-kutl), was reported to be drifting at 18,000 to 33,000 feet above the earth. At those altitudes, the cloud is directly in the way of commercial airliners but not an immediate health threat to people on the ground, the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network, based in Britain, said on its Web site.

Britain’s Met Office, the meteorological agency, said Friday that volcanic “dust and smells” were being detected on some of the islands north of Scotland, and samples of the ash were being analyzed.

According to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in London, as of 1 p.m. Thursday local time, there was still “significant eruption continuing,” with the plume reaching 15,000 feet, but “occasionally” as high as 33

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