Sunday, April 18, 2010

Volcanic ash update

Flight restrictions caused by volcanic ash have been extended to at least 19h00 this evening, Sunday 18 April.

Planes were first grounded at midday on Thursday amid fears that particles in the ash cloud generated by the volcanic eruption could cause engines to shut down. Prof Brian Golding, head of forecasting research at the UK's Met Office, said it looked like the ash would remain over the UK "for several days".

"We need a change of wind direction that stays changed for several days and there is no sign of that in the immediate future," he said.

A plume of ash 8.5km (5.3 miles) high was visible in Iceland on Saturday.

British glaciologist Dr Matthew Roberts, who is working at Iceland's Met Office, said the volcano was now producing less ash.

"However, there is still volcanic ash in the atmosphere and there's a lag effect between material being emitted from the volcano and the ash plume drifting into European airspace," he said.

The disruption has affected hundreds of thousands of travellers since Wednesday, when the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano began erupting.

Meanwhile, Dutch airline KLM and German airline Lufthansa have carried out test flights in their countries' airspace to see if it is safe for planes to fly.

KLM said a Boeing 737 and its engines were being inspected for possible damage, with a view to getting permission from the aviation authorities to start up operations again.

The BBC reported that the disruption risked becoming a "major business and economic disaster", and that a number of European airlines face financial difficulties.

In Fez, guesthouses have been reporting many cancellations from guests not able to fly to Morocco, while many others are stranded here and can't get home.

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