Volcanic ash cloud spreads east, closing more airports | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 15.04.2010
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Europe

Volcanic ash cloud spreads east, closing more airports

Iceland's second volcanic eruption in a month has caused flight delays and cancellations across northern Europe as ash and smoke are spewed thousands of meters into the atmosphere.

Hundreds of people in Iceland were evacuated and flights across northern Europe were grounded Thursday after a volcanic eruption in southern Iceland.

The eruption, on Wednesday, melted part of a glacier, triggering flash floods and causing property damage. No casualties have been reported.

"We have two heavy floods coming out from the melting of the Eyjafjallajokull glacier," local police spokesman Roegnvaldur Olafsson told news agency Agence France Presse. "No lives are in danger but we have evacuated the area and all roads are closed."

More flight delays expected

Flight cancellation board at a UK airport

UK airspace is closed until further notice, and the disruptions are spreading

The two airports serving Berlin, Tegel and Schoenefeld, were both ordered to shut down on Thursday evening by aviation safety authorities, shortly after Hamburg's airport - roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the west - became the first in Germany to halt all takeoffs and landings. Airports in Bremen, Duesseldorf and Hannover have also grounded all flights.

One of the world's busiest airports, at Frankfurt am Main, was also weighing a shutdown. More than 350 flights from there had been canceled on Thursday.

The country's DFS aviation safety authority said it would not implement fixed closure periods, but would react flexibly according to the developing situation. Even if the cloud shifted direction, delays and cancellations could persist. They expected to share more details by 5 a.m. Friday.

Airlines have also canceled flights in Britain, Norway, Sweden and Denmark due to poor visibility and the possible damage that volcanic ash can cause to aircraft engines.

Flights in and out of London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, as well as other British airports were canceled, including many transatlantic flights. In Scotland, the airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh were also closed.

Travel delays to Europe were reported as far away as San Francisco in the United States.

Eurocontrol spokesman Brian Flynn said on Thursday afternoon the problem could persist for a further 48 hours.

Airports in Sweden, Norway and Denmark were closed indefinitely as a giant cloud of ash and smoke affected visibility in the region. About 100,000 passengers in Norway were stranded at Oslo airport due to the disruptions, airport operator Avinor said in a statement.

The French aviation authority on Thursday announced that northern airports, including Calais and Lille, had shut down, with the country's two main airports in Paris and Strasbourg set to close later in the evening. They would remain closed until at least noon GMT.

Brussels, Amsterdam and Geneva airports also said they had cancelled large numbers of flights.

Smoke and steam rises from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier

Smoke and steam rises from the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier

Property and road damage

In Iceland, between 700 and 800 people were evacuated from the vicinity of the volcano in a sparsely populated area, 125 kilometers east of the capital, Reykjavik. A group of Norwegian tourists camping near the eruption site had to be rescued after local roads flooded.

A number of roads and bridges were washed out by surging floodwaters.

Olafur Eggertsson was forced to leave about 200 farm animals behind after a flow of mud began cascading down a mountainside towards his farm.

"At around 10:30 this morning [Wednesday] we heard a lot of noise and saw mud and soil suddenly rushing down the mountain," Eggertsson told AFP. "Just 30 minutes later we had mud and soil and a giant flood running into our dike above the farm."

This is the second volcanic eruption in Iceland in a month. The earlier eruption, at the same glacier in March, was the first since 1823 and spewed lava for weeks.

msh/svs/AFP/AP/Reuters
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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