Europe cancels 250 flights over volcanic ash (Lead)

May 24th, 2011 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama London, May 24 (IANS) Tens of thousands of people are facing air travel chaos after more than 250 flights in Europe have been cancelled due to the Iceland volcanic ash cloud, a media report said Tuesday.

The European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said 252 flights had been cancelled in Europe.

The Daily Mail said that a towering plume of ash, smoke and steam hit Scotland and Ireland Monday night, bringing disruption to airlines. British Airways and a host of other airlines cancelled all flights between London and Scotland Monday night.

The air traffic control company Nats said ash was expected to affect a number of British airports, including Heathrow, Londonderry, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Prestwick, Newcastle, Carlisle, Durham Tees Valley and Cumbernauld.

Ryanair said Tuesday it had carried out a one hour flight over Scotland in the so-called “red zone” of the ash cloud from Glasgow Prestwick to Inverness, on to Aberdeen and then south to Edinburgh. But there was no visible volcanic ash cloud or any presence of ash on the air frame, wings or engines, the Mail quoted the airline as saying.

A Met Office spokeswoman said: “The weather is uncertain over the next few days. We have a low pressure system moving in tomorrow and there could be some westerly winds.

“However, very small changes in weather patterns can make very large changes in how the ash will move.”

At least 36 flights were cancelled in Scotland Monday and Tuesday, as airports across Britain were put on stand-by for imminent disruption.

According to the latest information from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in London, there would be no shutdown of Irish airspace. But as a string of carriers announced cancellations, British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said Britons “have got to learn” to live with chaos caused by volcanic activity in Iceland.

“My understanding is that we have gone through an unusually quiet period for volcanic eruptions in Iceland over the last 20-odd years and we are moving into a period when there is likely to be significantly more volcanic activity,” he told the BBC.

US President Barack Obama flew from Ireland to London Monday night - a day early - to ensure the cloud does not delay his state visit, the Mail said.

Some 500,000 passengers on 9,000 flights come in and out of British airspace every day. The latest crisis was sparked by the eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano, which has been spewing out a 13-mile high tower of ash since Saturday.

The Met Office said the ash reached the northern coast of Britain around 6 p.m. Monday.

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