Airspace shutdown 'could last days', says Emergency Task Force

The National Task Force on Emergency Planning says it is possible that flights may not operate in or out of Ireland for a number of days.

The National Task Force on Emergency Planning says it is possible that flights may not operate in or out of Ireland for a number of days.

Around 50,000 passengers have been hit and 500 flights grounded here today as Irish airspace shutdown for the first time in living memory.

It is due to a cloud of volcanic ash from an eruption in Iceland is hanging over Northern Europe.

An update from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London is imminent - it is likely to say airspace should remain closed for at least 24 hours more.

At the moment, Irish airspace is provisionally closed until 11am tomorrow morning.

Task Force statement in full:

"This evening, the Government Taskforce on Emergency Planning was convened by the Department of Transport regarding the ongoing issue involving the volcanic ash cloud.

"Present at the meeting were representatives from the Department of Transport, the Irish Coast Guard, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport, the Department of Defence, the Department of An Taoiseach, An Garda Siochána, Met Éireann, and the Irish Aviation Authority. The purpose of the meeting this evening was to ensure that the most up-to-date information available from all the relevant agencies was brought to the attention of the Committee.

"The current situation is that the cloud of volcanic ash is currently in the upper layers of the atmosphere. According to advice from Met Éireann, the EPA and the Department of Health and Children at this time, there are no air quality or public health concerns.

"The current restrictions on air travel are as a result of safety concerns arising from the volcanic ash plume. Safety is the priority. All aircraft are grounded until further notice as exposure to volcanic ash creates a severe safety risk to aircraft.

"Restrictions on air travel are widespread across northern Europe and the situation may continue for a number of days. In Ireland, nearly 500 flights at the three state airports were cancelled today disrupting the travel plans of approximately 50,000 people.

"The IAA acting on advice from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre will issue another bulletin later this evening following the next advisory notice due to be issued by the Centre at 7pm. Eurocontrol, the European agency for the safety of air navigation is monitoring the situation across Europe.

"The Taoiseach and members of Government are been kept fully informed by the Committee on the ongoing situation. The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning at 11am.

"Passengers booked on flights over the coming days should contact their airlines in advance of travel.

"The Committee will meet again tomorrow morning. A further update will issue after that meeting."

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