Air traffic halt continues in Finland due to volcanic ash from Iceland

14:33, April 18, 2010      

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Air traffic halt across Finland continues on Saturday as the airspace closure has been extended until 3 pm Sunday due to ash cloud moving over Finland from volcanic eruption in Iceland.

According to Finnish Civil Aviation Administration, the ban on flights over Finland is likely to be extended until Wednesday evening as Finnish Meteorological Institute predicts that the ash over Finland would not clear up until then. The disruption to air traffic could thus prolong for days.

Finnish Civil Aviation Administration has applied airspace closure since Thursday because the volcanic ash could shut down airplane engines and cut visibility. F-18 Hornet fighter jets of Finnish Air Force suffered damage from the volcanic dust when they were on training flights Thursday morning.

All the 25 airports in Finland were shut down by middle night Friday, halting Finland's air traffic. According to Finnish Civil Aviation Administration, more than 800 flights were canceled on Friday, affecting 50,000 passengers.

Finland's rail and ferry services are under pressure due to the disruption to air traffic. Finnish State Railways has been running full capacity and increased carriages on its long distance train services to cope with the additional passenger demand. Train tickets over weekend have been sold out across Finland.

Ferry operators Silja Line and Viking Line both reported heavy traffic on vessels operating between Finland, Sweden and Estonia. Operator Tallink-Silja said its ferry services to and from Estonia was fully booked on Friday. Viking Line said that its passengers this weekend have increased by 1,000 to 2,000 from normal weekends and the tickets for cruise line between Stockholm and Helsinki were sold out by Friday.

Hotels around Helsinki-Vantaa airport and downtown Helsinki have been full owing to the air traffic halt, which forced stranded passengers to change traveling plans and leave Finland by sea or by train.

Finnish President and several ministers have also seen difficulties during international trips. President Tarja Halonen was forced to return Helsinki from Copenhagen after attending Danish Queen Margrethe's 70th birthday celebrations by sea and by land on Friday. President Halonen also announced Saturday the cancellation of her trip to Poland for funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Sunday due to the air traffic halt.

Finland's Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen, who was in Madrid for EU Finance Ministers' Meeting has also been stranded in Spain and is now trying to return Finland by train and by car. Return trip for Finnish Minister of Justice Tuija Brax, who is now in Brazil for a UN meeting, could also be affected.

According to local media's report, over 1,000 Finnish package tour holidaymakers remain stranded in the Canary Islands or in other tourist destinations like Turkey and Greece, owing to the ongoing flying ban.

Meanwhile many Finnish travelers arrived at the ferry harbors in Sweden's capital Stockholm on Saturday morning, many of them returned from Germany via taxies, rented cars or trains. Some travelers said that the journey to Stockholm has cost them about 15 hours and some 3,000 euros (about 4,048 U.S. dollars).

Finnish flag carrier Finnair said that it has more than 20 planes being stranded in Asia and other European countries at present. The company puts its daily financial losses at 2 million euros.

Source: Xinhua


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