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June 14, 2011

Chilean Volcano Still Causing Widespread Flight Disruptions

A cloud of ash from a volcano in Chile is disrupting air travel for a fourth day Wednesday, forcing the cancellation of flights in South America, Australia and New Zealand.  

More than 60,000 passengers have already been stranded.

Virgin Australia said Wednesday the ash cloud would be too low to avoid on flights to and from Perth, the largest city in western Australia.  Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar also cancelled flights to Perth.  The Perth airport says it is open and urged passengers to check with airlines to see if their flights would go ahead.

The Australian carrier Qantas said all flights in and out of the southern island of Tasmania and to New Zealand remained grounded since Sunday, but it lifted a ban on flights to and from the southern Australian city of Melbourne.  Air New Zealand and Virgin Air changed flight paths to continue service between Australia and New Zealand and Tasmania.

The volcano in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain in Chile has been erupting for several days.  In addition to Argentina and Chile, flights have been disrupted in Brazil and Uruguay.

A flight carrying United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Buenos Aires, Argentina was diverted to the northern city of Cordoba late Sunday because of the ash, which can damage aircraft bodies and engines.  Ban was forced to travel to Buenos Aires by bus overnight for a meeting with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.