Iceland volcanic ash grounds flights across northern Europe

20:18, April 15, 2010      

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Drifting clouds of volcanic ash from Iceland grounded hundreds of flights in northern Europe on Thursday, closing airspace in Britain, Germany, and Scandinavia.

Several British airports closed Thursday after a massive cloud of ash from an erupting volcano in Iceland drifted into Britain's airspace.

About 150 flights were canceled at Heathrow Airport,one of the world's busiest. Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast and Newcastle airports were completely shut.

The Air Traffic Control Service (NATS) imposed restrictions after the Met Office warned that volcanic ash could damage engines. Passengers were being advised to contact their airlines prior to travel.

A NATS spokesman said: "The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center has issued a forecast that the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption in Iceland will track over Europe tonight."

"NATS is working with Eurocontrol and our colleagues in Europe's other air navigation service providers to take the appropriate action to ensure safety in accordance with international aviation policy," he said.

A spokesman of European air control authorities Eurocontrol said in Brussels that the cloud of volcanic ash was expected to reach Belgium airspace at about 16:00 local time (1400 GMT).

To prevent ash particles from damaging aircraft engines, the Eurocontrol grounded flights in Belgium, the Netherlands and northwestern Germany. Due to the intensity of the ash cloud, airspace over northwestern Germany will be closed Thursday afternoon.

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