Dozens of Europe flights cancelled by ash cloud

9th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dozens of flights in France, Italy and Portugal were cancelled Sunday as airspace was closed because of an ash cloud drifting over from a volcano in Iceland that caused major air travel chaos last month.

French authorities said nearly 70 flights were cancelled at Nice, Lyon, Bordeaux and Paris airports, most of them headed to Italy and Portugal where airspace was closed because of the risks of the ash.

However French airspace remained open, authorities said.

Nice is the nearest international airport to Cannes which is expecting hundreds of visitors for its flagship international film festival to start in three days' time.

In Portugal, all flights to the northern city of Porto were suspended until 1200 GMT Sunday, airport officials there said, after authorities had cancelled dozens of flights on Saturday.

"All flights have been cancelled until 1:00 pm (12H00 GMT) because of the closure of airspace above the region," an official at the city's Sa Carneiro international airport said.

"The airport is open but air traffic control operations are no longer possible because of the cloud," the official told AFP.

Some flights to and from the capital Lisbon were also affected, officials said, as the weather service announced the ash cloud could reach the city by Sunday evening.

Italian authorities said separately they closed airspace in the north of the country between 0600 GMT and 1200 GMT for the same reason.

The civil aviation authority said in a statement that the closure affected Milan airports but those in Venice and Trieste, also in the north, were spared.

Four airports in northern Spain were closed Sunday until at least 1400 GMT because of the ash cloud, the airport control authority said.

More than 900 flights were cancelled in northern Spain on Saturday with the major hub of Barcelona among the airports that were closed.

The Eyjafjoell volcano began erupting on April 14 and caused travel chaos worldwide with airspaces closed over several European nations for a week because of fears the ash would damage aircraft engines with fatal results.

It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected. The airline industry said it lost some 2.5 billion euros.

The volcano began fresh and intensive ash eruptions overnight Thursday and caused Ireland and the Faroe Islands to shut their airspace for a time.

The ash caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights on Saturday as air traffic was disrupted in Spain, France and Portugal, while many transatlantic services were delayed as they skirted the plume of debris from the volcano.

© 2010 AFP

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