Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Volcano ash cloud 'will be gone by tomorrow'

Smoke plumes from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano which began erupting on Saturday for the first time since 2004 (AP)
Smoke plumes from Iceland's Grimsvotn volcano which began erupting on Saturday for the first time since 2004 (AP)
Flights at UK airports have returned to normal after disruption caused by volcanic ash
Passengers wait at the airport in Hamburg, Germany (AP)
This satellite image released by Nasa shows a volcanic ash plume over the North Sea (AP/Nasa)

European airspace could be back to normal tomorrow as ash from the Iceland volcano dissipates rapidly, air traffic control bosses said today.

Brian Flynn, head of network operations for Eurocontrol, said it expects about 700 flights to be cancelled today mostly due to volcanic ash clouds over northern Germany.

But ash clouds could be dissipating because of the reduced amount of activity from the Grimsvotn volcano.

He said it opened up the possibility that the airline situation over Europe could return to normal tomorrow.

Some 29,500 flights were expected over Europe today including some 4,000 over Germany.

In Iceland, a volcano expert said that observers at the crater were reporting only steam, an indication that the eruption could be nearing its end.

"It's not over," said Pall Einarsson, from the University of Iceland. "But it's declining rapidly."

German air traffic control ordered all flights to and from Berlin's Tegel and Schoenefeld airports, stopped at 11am. Airports in Bremen, Hamburg and Luebeck, had already been closed for hours, causing hundreds of flights to be struck. The flight ban is expected to remain in place for much of Wednesday, Eurocontrol said. Sweden saw some 20 flights cancelled.

While experts say particles in the ash could stall jet engines and sandblast planes' windows, many argue the flight bans are a massive overreaction by badly prepared safety regulators.

But, German transport minister Peter Ramsauer insisted the precautions were justified, and said that authorities were better prepared after the Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption last year forced the closure of European air space for five days, stranding millions.

Aviation authorities will give airlines information detailed information about the location and density of ash clouds. Any airline that wants to fly through the ash cloud can do so, if it can convince its own national aviation regulators it is safe.

German air traffic control later allowed traffic to resume at Bremen and Hamburg airports.

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