All British airports closed due to Iceland volcano ash

09:01, April 16, 2010      

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Passengers wait, after flights were disrupted, in a terminal in Manchester Airport, Manchester northern England April 15, 2010. Flights in and out of Britain were disrupted on Thursday after a cloud of volcanic ash drifting across Britain from Iceland closed several airports, with flights cancelled at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)

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

All flights in and out of Britain were suspended, disrupting about 300,000 passengers.

British airspace will be closed until at least 6 p.m., apart from emergencies. The closure includes military flights through Royal Airforce Brize Norton Oxfordshire, the main airbridge to Afghanistan.

The Air Traffic Control Service (NATS) said no flights would be allowed in or out Britain airspace amid fears of engine damage. The airspace restriction was the most significant in living memory, a NATS spokesman said.

The Civil Aviation Authority called the shutdown the biggest since World War II.

Airspace in Belgium, Germany, Ireland and Scandinavia was also closed -- affecting an estimated one million passengers across Europe.

British Airways said all of its flights were cancelled until Friday morning at the earliest.

Expects have warned that the tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud would be sufficient to jam aircraft engines.

The Health Protection Agency said, however, that the ash did not pose a significant risk to public health because of its high altitude.

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