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Volcanic-ash cloud grounds Ireland's planes


Latest update : 2010-05-04

Ash from Iceland's volcano struck again Monday, forcing Ireland to impose a fresh flight ban and bringing about closings of some British airports as well. Irish airports are set to reopen for normal operations from 1200 GMT Tuesday.

AFP - Irish airports were to reopen Tuesday after being shut down for six hours due to the return of volcanic ash from an Icelandic volcano which brought chaos to thousands of travellers last month.


The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said seven airports including Dublin and Shannon would reopen for normal operations from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) after they were shut from 0600 GMT as a precautionary measure.

But its chief executive Eamon Brennan warned that Ireland "remains at risk" of further disruption in the days and weeks to come.

"The reason we have changed our advice is because the ash cloud has moved towards the south, down towards the Bay of Biscay," he told RTE state radio.

"At the moment the volcano is more or less dormant but should it re-erupt again, we'd be faced with this problem."

There were also closures in Northern Ireland and over the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands off the western coast of Scotland, imposed by Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

But later the CAA said that flights to and from Northern Ireland would be able to resume from 1200 GMT. Airports in the Outer Hebrides are also expected to reopen later.

Airspace across Europe was closed down for up to a week last month after the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull, but was re-opened after emergency talks between European governments, airlines and regulators.

The new alerts did not disrupt aircraft flying over Ireland from Britain or Europe, or southern British airports including Heathrow, Europe's busiest air hub, authorities in the two countries said.

But the new closure did trigger the cancellation of hundreds of flights in and out of Ireland and Northern Ireland, bringing fresh chaos to thousands of people.

One victim of the ban was Ireland's Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who had to cancel a trip to Brussels for talks with his EU counterparts -- on the recent ash cloud travel chaos.

As Britain's election campaign entered its penultimate day, opposition Conservative leader David Cameron briefly cancelled plans to visit Northern Ireland due to the ban, but later said the trip would go ahead.

"We are battling through everything to make this happen," he said.

Heathrow said that around 20 flights to and from the west London airport had been cancelled this morning.

"We are asking passengers to check with their airlines before coming to the airport," said a Heathrow spokeswoman.

Budget Irish carrier Ryanair said it had cancelled all flights into and out of Ireland between 0500 GMT and 1300 GMT Tuesday.

"The first wave is clearly one of the busiest parts of the day so it will have a fairly significant effect on the operation," said airline spokesman Stephen McNamara.

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus said it had cancelled all British and European flights scheduled to depart and arrive into Dublin and other airports in the country until 1200 GMT Tuesday.

The international airline industry body, IATA, said last month's shutdown cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.3 billion euros) and called on governments to pick up at least part of the cost.

Eurocontrol, the continent's air traffic control co-ordinator, said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe had been cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.

Date created : 2010-05-03


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