News / Europe

Volcano Eruption in Iceland Strengthens

Just hours after European Union transportation ministers agreed on a plan to ease restrictions on airliner traffic, the British National Air Traffic Service reported that the eruption of the volcano in Iceland has strengthened.

A statement released late Monday said a new ash cloud is heading toward Britain.  It described the situation as unpredictable and changing.

Earlier Monday, the EU ministers held a video conference and created three flight zones over Europe in an attempt to break the huge travel deadlock that has stranded millions of passengers for days.

One area will be open to all flights, another to limited flights and a third would be a no-fly zone.

The EU's Transport Commissioner, Siim Kallas said there would be no compromise on safety. But he said the plan should allow progressively more planes to fly.

He called it good news for the airline industry, for stranded passengers and for the European economy that has been hard hit by the crisis.

Volcanic Ash Stops Europe Flights—Why Ash Is Dangerous (National Geographic)
An eruption in South Iceland (Icelandic meteorological institute)
Volcanic Gases and Their Effects (U.S. Geological Survey)

Europe's aviation industry has criticized the way the crisis has been handled, accusing governments of over-reacting and waiting too long to come up with a coordinated plan.

The head of the International Air Transport Association, Giovanni Bisignani said the scale of the economic impact on aviation, reaching $1 billion, is greater than the September 11, 2001, terror attacks when U.S. airspace was closed for three days.

He called the situation "embarrassing" and a "European mess."

Germany's aviation authority on Monday announced the resumption of long-haul flights by the country's flag carrier, Lufthansa, bringing some 15,000 passengers home from East Asia, Africa and North America. And Britain has dispatched three navy ships to bring stranded passengers back home across the English Channel.

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

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