Iceland volcano ash disrupts European air traffic

Thursday, April 15, 2010

OSLO/LONDON - Ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland Thursday disrupted air traffic in several northern European countries, including Britain, Norway and Sweden.

All flights to and from Norway, including the main airport at Oslo, were cancelled as of 10 a.m. (0800 GMT) Thursday, authorities said. About 100,000 passengers were stranded. Airport operator Avinor said it did not know when flights could resume.

Drifting ash from the volcano near the Eyjafjallajoekull glacier, about 120 km east of the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, poses a threat to jet engines.

Flights to Reykjavik were, however, not yet impacted, due to the prevailing wind conditions.

Delays were also reported for intercontinental flights as planes over the area affected by the drifting ash were re-routed.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who earlier this week attended a summit in the US on nuclear safety, was reported to be stranded at Newark airport near New York.

Airports in northern Sweden and northern Finland were also closed. Depending on the winds, other airports in southern Sweden could also be impacted.

Earlier, British airport authorities closed down the airspace over Scotland, as ash drifted across the region, the Press Association reported.

“Following advice from the Met Office, the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has introduced restrictions to UK airspace this morning as a result of volcanic ash drifting across the United Kingdom from Iceland,” a spokeswoman for London’s Stansted Airport said.

These measures currently affect Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports, which are closed, but may also affect other parts of Britain later Thursday, she added.

The decision followed similar measures taken in Iceland and Norway Wednesday.

Officials in Reykjavik said flight bans could also be expected in large parts of Sweden, Finland and regions in north-western Russia as well as in Denmark.

Some 700 people were ordered to leave their homes near the volcano following a series of tremors earlier this week. A plume of smoke and ash several kilometres high was spotted from the volcano, which had previously erupted last month.

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