Sat, Apr 17, 2010 - Page 1 News List

Ash cloud continues to disrupt flights

AGENCIES, STOCKHOLM, WARSAW AND REYKJAVIK

Sweden and Norway began gradually reopening portions of airspace yesterday, while Denmark and Finland said they were grounding traffic until today at least because of a cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland.

Along with Britain, Scandinavia was the region most affected by the colossal ash cloud slowly spreading over half of Europe and forcing the continent’s biggest air travel shutdown since World War II.

In Finland, an important hub between Europe and Asia, all flights were grounded late on Thursday and airport authorities said traffic could remain restricted for many days, which is how long ­meteorologists have forecast the cloud will hover over the Nordic country.

The Finnish airforce said yesterday several F-18 Hornet jets that had flown only short flights over Finland on Thursday while the airspace remained open had seen “significant damage” to their engines from the volcanic ash.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland all completely closed their airspaces on Thursday, gradually shutting zones as the ash cloud approached.

Grounded passengers stormed buses and trains in the region. Oslo Taxi reported that its longest trip so far had been a 1,800km drive from Oslo to Paris, while Monty Python comedy legend John Cleese took a US$5,100 ride to Brussels.

Ironically, airports remained open in Iceland because of favorable wind conditions, an airport authority spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the family of late Polish president Lech Kaczynski has urged that his state funeral be held tomorrow in Krakow as planned despite fears that the ash may keep some world leaders from attending.

It was unclear if Poland’s airports would reopen in time to receive world leaders arriving late tomorrow to attend the state funeral.

Among world leaders planning to attend are US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedv and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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