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Volcano ash shuts down airports in Germany
London, May 25 (IANS):
Published on 25 May. 2011 10:27 PM IST
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Ash from an Icelandic volcano has forced the closure of major airports across northern Germany, BBC reported Wednesday. Traffic was returning to normal in other parts of northern Europe, a day after about 500 flights were cancelled.
Officials have grounded all flights in and out of Hamburg and Berlin. Bremen airport was also closed for several hours before reopening, it said. The Grimsvotn volcano, which erupted Saturday, seems to have stopped spewing ash, an Icelandic official said. The German authorities closed Bremen and Hamburg airports early Wednesday. Traffic at Berlin’s airports was halted at about 0900 GMT. Later, the country’s air traffic control agency said the ash level was “no longer critical” at Bremen and allowed it to reopen.
About 700 flights out of 8,000 on a normal day were expected to be cancelled in Germany, Europe’s air traffic control body Eurocontrol said in a post on its Twitter page. The cloud could also affect parts of Poland but there are no flight restrictions elsewhere in Europe, Eurocontrol said. Experts say particles in the ash could cause jet engines to stall. German Transport Minister Peter Ramsauer told public television ARD: “Security is the top priority but we can say that the situation will get better later today.” There has been no outright criticism of the decision from German airlines, but there is unease in the industry that Germany’s rules regarding flying through volcanic ash are different from the rest of Europe, according to the BBC. The head of the country’s airport organisation said Europe-wide rules were needed.
France’s civil aviation authority has said it expects very little disruption to air traffic and was not expecting to close any of the country’s airspace. Air traffic in Norway, Denmark and Britain was disrupted Tuesday, with Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England especially badly hit.
The UK closures were condemned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary Tuesday. He accused authorities of “bureaucratic incompetence” and said the airline had safely sent two planes into ash zones over Scotland.
Britain’s weather service said the concentration of volcanic ash in UK airspace would decrease significantly over the course of Wednesday.
The Sun quoted British Transport Secretary Philip Hammond as saying that airports in Britain would return to normal Wednesday as the ash cloud went down from 12 miles to just two.
He said a special aircraft had been bought to test the intensity of ash levels. The aircraft, however, would not be operational until next month or early July.
The volcano began erupting last Saturday, sending clouds of ash high into the air. But it appears to have stopped emitting ash at 0200 GMT Wednesday, said Hrafn Gudmundsson of the Icelandic Meteorological Office.
Experts say the eruption is on a different scale to that of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano last year, when millions of travellers were stranded amid concerns about the damage volcanic ash could cause to aircraft engines.
Icelandic President Olafur Grimsson told the BBC: “The eruption is gradually being diminished and the ash cloud is definitely smaller than it has been so we are pretty optimistic now.”
The ash particles from Grimsvotn are larger than those from Eyjafjallajokull, and so fall to the ground more quickly, the broadcaster said.

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