Ash cloud shuts UK airports as Icelandic volcano rumbles on

16th May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Several British and Irish airports closed Sunday as the ash cloud returned, drifting south and east following fresh eruptions from the Icelandic volcano.

Manchester Airport in northwest England and Dublin Airport, among the 20 busiest in Europe, were among those affected by the cloud, with the ash levels deemed too dangerous to fly through.

Manchester -- Britain's busiest airport outside London, where airports were so far unaffected -- was among a host of northern British airports to shut from 1200 GMT to 1800 GMT, including all those in Northern Ireland.

Dublin, Ireland's main airport, was to close from 1800 GMT until at least 0800 GMT Monday.

Europe's skies were closed for up to a week last month following the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano, in the biggest shutdown of the continent's airspace since World War II.

The volcanic ash, which can cause serious damage to jet engines, has continued to cause disruption on a smaller scale in certain parts of Europe.

A vulcanologist from the University of Iceland said Eyjafjoell activity had worsened in recent days.

"There is slightly increased activity for the past two days, there has been some ash fall around the glacier," said Bjoern Oddsson, who was travelling to the volcano to assess the new situation.

"The column (of smoke) has increased and rises up to eight kilometres," he told AFP, as opposed to six kilometres in previous days.

As for the effect on European flights triggered by the rise in activity, that "all depends on the winds", said the geologist from the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland.

Travelling southwards towards the Atlantic Ocean, it should turn towards inner Iceland on Tuesday, according to weather forecasts.

In Britain, the other airports shut from 1200 GMT to 1800 GMT as the no-fly zone extended southwards and eastwards were regional air hubs like East Midlands, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford, Doncaster and Humberside.

Some Scottish airports, including their fourth busiest, Prestwick, shut down, while all Northern Ireland airports closed for the period. Isle of Man airport also shut.

National Air Traffic Services, which manages British airspace, said the no-fly zone had moved east and south for the 1200 GMT to 1800 GMT period, and it would issue further updates as necessary.

Britain's Department of Transport had warned Saturday that British airspace was likely to face partial closures from Sunday until Tuesday due to the volcanic ash cloud.

London airports, including Europe's busiest air hub, Heathrow, could be affected, it said.

Eurostar, which runs high-speed rail services linking London with Paris and Brussels via the Channel tunnel, said it was laying on extra trains to answer an expected surge in demand.

"We've planned four extra trains on Monday," a spokeswoman told AFP. "Two between London and Paris and two between Paris and London. It's because the trains are already very busy and have very little capacity left."

In the Republic of Ireland, of the main three airports, Dublin was to close from 1800 GMT until at least 0800 GMT on Monday, while Cork and Shannon remain open until further notice, the Irish Aviation Authority said.

Of the smaller hubs, Ireland West (Knock), Donegal and Sligo airports remain closed until at least 1100 GMT Monday.

Kerry is open until further notice, Galway is closed until at least 0800 GMT Monday and Waterford is to close from 2200 GMT until at least 0800 GMT Monday.

North Atlantic overflights through Irish-controlled airspace remain unaffected.

In Scandinavia, the skies were open over Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden and should remain so until at least Monday night, when there is a chance of Danish airspace being affected.

There were no restrictions on German flights, with the DFS air safety authority saying that ash pollution was "weak" for the moment. Weather forecasts indicate it should remain that way until at least Tuesday.


© 2010 AFP

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