Northern Italy's airports closed for volcano ash, aviation crisis may last for days

10:07, April 20, 2010      

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Italian civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso said on Monday that the inconveniences of the aviation crisis caused by ash clouds from a volcanic eruption in Iceland might prolong still for several more days.

A special meeting was held earlier by the operative unit of the civil protection and the country's main defense and air authorities to discuss the situation and its possible remedies, identifying ways by which to reduce the air travel inconveniences linked to the ash cloud spreading over Europe from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafallajokull.

Bertolaso stressed that the authorities' goal was to limit the damage by avoiding a "total paralyses of air transport."

He announced that a special crisis task force composed of volcano experts and geologists is already at work to analyze air samples coming from Great Britain and containing ash.

The situation might remain critical for several more days. According to the civil protection chief, the Icelandic volcano's eruption was "impressive" and will therefore "not wear out in the next hours with the consequence that the troubles provoked by the ash cloud over Europe's skies are set to last for more days," he warned.

Bertolaso said his unit was in direct contact with the Icelandic scientists working on the field. "We are able to monitor the activity on the volcano, which shows that the eruption will not immediately die out," he said.

"It's not a controllable phenomenon but in continual evolution, " Fabrizio Curcio, director of the civil protection emergency office, told Xinhua.

"The ash cloud, according to mathematical calculations, is expected to reach Northern Italy where airports have already been closed as a prevention measure," he said.

However, Curcio observed that the civil protection was not able to calculate when and if the ash cloud would eventually cover Italy. "What's sure is that the volcano's eruption time frame is unpredictable," he pointed out.

Following a special decree by the Italian aviation authority ENAC, all of Italy's northern airports are closed from Monday until Tuesday morning 8 a.m. local time and the civil aviation authority might further extend the closure.

Air traffic in the rest of the country has been cut down with more than 144 flights canceled on Monday at Rome's Leonardo Da Vinci international airport and other 171 at Bologna's regional hub.

Italy's travelers have been forced to switch to railway transport, which has been boosted by the addition of several train wagons. All trains result already booked till April 23.

In consideration of the emergency state of air travel, the national public transport strike scheduled for Friday has been at present suspended by the workers' unions.

Source: Xinhua


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