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Ash cloud to hit 1,000 European flights

London, May 17, 2010

The closure of airspace in the Netherlands and southeast Britain due to volcanic ash from Iceland will cause the cancellation of about 1,000 flights on Monday, European air traffic agency Eurocontrol said.

The current ash cloud is expected partially to disperse during the course of Monday. But by 1200 GMT, the cloud is expected to affect Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and parts of southwest Britain, the agency said in a statement.

"There may be some continuing disruption in the greater London area," it said, adding that it expected 28,000 flights to operate, 1,000 fewer than normal.
   
A spokesman for Europe's busiest airport Heathrow, in west London, said it had reopened at 0600 GMT. "However, delays and cancellations are likely due to restrictions being applied," the spokesman said.   

Gatwick, London's second biggest airport, will remain closed to flight arrivals until 1200 GMT. Nearly 150 arrivals and departures will be cancelled on Monday morning, about half the scheduled total.   

Britain's air traffic control body said a no-fly zone was imposed over much of Britain because the ash cloud was changing shape and drifting.   

"Heathrow and Gatwick airports will be clear of the no-fly zone," it said in a statement. However, "restrictions will have to be applied due to their close proximity to the no-fly zone."    

Airports in Amsterdam and Rotterdam would be closed for at least eight hours from 6 am (0400 GMT) on Monday, Dutch state television reported, effectively halting most air traffic in and out of the Netherlands. Other, minor Dutch airports were not be affected.   

Amsterdam Schiphol is Europe's third-largest cargo airport and fifth-largest passenger hub. In a statement on its website, Dutch airline KLM said: "We are currently working on a diversion plan for all affected flights to Amsterdam."         

More than 100,000 flights were cancelled across Europe last month because of the volcanic ash forming a cloud over the continent.

Millions of people were stranded and airlines, already battered by the global economic downturn, lost $1.7 billion, the International Air Transport Association has said.

At the weekend, North Atlantic flights through Irish-controlled airspace were unaffected by the latest cloud of ash, with Shannon -- an important stopover for flights to and from the United States -- remaining open.

But information notices at Schipol airport on Monday showed some flights from the United States had been cancelled.

The volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland has been erupting for weeks and the ash plume has reached heights of 25,000 feet (7,620 metres), according to Britain's Meteorological Office.

"The ash cloud is expected to clear the UK during Tuesday as southwesterly winds become established during Monday," it said. - Reuters




Tags: Ireland | England | Iceland | Scotland | Ash clouds |

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