Friday, April 16, 2010

Volcanic Eruptions Continue Causing Largest Air Travel Disruptions Since 9/11

The continuing eruption of an Icelandic volcano has disrupted European and transatlantic flights for a second straight day, and may disrupt flights for as long as the prevailing winds and the eruption send ash flying into the paths of airliners over Europe.
But he said the microscopic ash was potentially dangerous for people if it starts to "settle" on the earth because inhaled particles can reach the lungs and cause respiratory problems.
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There is a heightened danger for those suffering from asthma and respiratory diseases.

Epstein said the cloud mostly remained high in the atmosphere on Friday but the U.N. health agency was monitoring the situation closely. Some ash blanketed the ground in parts of rural southern Iceland.

Meanwhile the European air navigation agency said air traffic disruptions because of the volcanic ash cloud would last at least another day. The cloud's impact, it said, "will continue for at least the next 24 hours."

Eurocontrol said in a statement that it expected only about 11,000 flights in European airspace Friday, compared with about 28,000 normally. On Thursday, there were 20,334 flights, it said.

German authorities halted flights to 11 of the nation's 16 international airports, including Frankfurt, which is Europe's second busiest, and Duesseldorf. Traffic to airports in Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne was also stopped.

In Poland, an official in the presidential administration said the ash cloud may delay Sunday's funeral for Poland's President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, though the couple's family later said the services would go ahead. U.S. President Barack Obama and dozens of other world leaders are due to attend the funeral at Krakow's Wawel cathedral in southern Poland. On Friday Krakow airport was one of only two in Poland still open.

British civil aviation authorities said there would be no flights over England until Saturday morning at the earliest.
Flight delays and cancellations may continue through the weekend (or beyond). It all depends on what the volcano does and whether the wind patterns change to allow some flights to resume to the UK. Experts believe that the ash cloud will dissipate within the next few days because it is relatively diffuse at this point. That's good news for those traveling around Europe by air or who have plans to do so in the near term.

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