New Iceland ash cloud heads for Britain: air authority

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The eruption of a volcano in Iceland strengthened on Monday and sent a new ash cloud towards Britain, air authorities warned, hours after saying a flight ban would be lifted.

But the National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which manages British airspace, said some airspace should still be open early Tuesday.

"The volcano eruption in Iceland has strengthened and a new ash cloud is spreading south and east towards the UK," said the air traffic controllers.

"Latest information from the Met Office (weather forecasting service) shows that the situation is worsening in some areas," said NATS in a statement.

It added however that Scottish airports should still be available from 7:00 am (0600 GMT) Tuesday, as had been announced earlier in the day, but the situation for Northern Irish airports was uncertain.

More airspace over England may become available from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) although not as far south as the main London airports, said NATS.

It added that "the situation is likely to change overnight," however.

The latest development showed "the dynamic and rapidly changing conditions in which we are working," said the air authority.

The air traffic control service imposed the flight ban at midday (1100 GMT) Thursday and has extended it several times, leaving tens of thousands of travellers stranded abroad.

British Airways had said it hoped to resume flights into and out of London, in the southeast of England, from 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) Tuesday. But after the latest update, BA said it was "reviewing" its schedule.

The airline had already warned the resumption of flights could be bumpy, with many aircraft, cabin crew and pilots out of position around the world.

© 2010 AFP

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