Irish airspace open, but flight chaos continues in Europe

Irish airspace, with the exception of a block off the south coast, will continue to operate without restrictions, according to the Irish Aviation Authority.

Irish airspace, with the exception of a block off the south coast, will continue to operate without restrictions, according to the Irish Aviation Authority.

This effectively means that Dublin, Shannon and Cork Airports will be open for flights.

They have just issued an update following the latest information from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in London.

The situation will be reviewed again later this evening and another update is expected at 7pm.

The situation remains very serious throughout Europe with restrictions in the UK, France and Germany for the next 24 hours.

The weather maps show the volcanic ash cloud situated over England and Wales and most of mainland Europe.

The volcanic ash has left a widening arc of grounded aircraft across Europe today as travel chaos engulfed major cities.

Air traffic centre Eurocontrol said the disruptions that reverberated throughout the world yesterday were even worse today, with only 11,000 flights expected to operate instead of the usual 28,000.

It said delays will continue into tomorrow at least as the ash cloud moves south and east.

Travelers jammed train stations and hotels in key European cities.

Dutch train company NS Hispeed said extra services were put on and lines to buy train tickets at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport were so long the company was handing out free coffee.

Thalys, a high-speed joint venture of the French, Belgian and German rail companies, was allowing passengers to buy tickets even if the trains were fully booked.

“We think we can help a lot of passengers get closer to their final destinations,” said a spokeswoman.

Meanwhile the Icelandic volcano causing the problem continued to erupt.

As torrents of water roared down its steep slopes about 40 people nearby were evacuated because of flash floods, which washed away chunks of the country’s main ring road.

The ash cloud, drifting between 20,000 to 30,000ft high and invisible from the ground, left tens of thousands of travellers stranded around the globe and blocked the main air flight path between the US east coast and Europe.

Fearing that microscopic particles of highly abrasive ash could endanger passengers by causing aircraft engines to fail, authorities shut down air space over Britain, Ireland, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium. That halted flights at Europe’s two busiest airports – Heathrow in London and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris – as well as dozens of other airports, 25 in France alone.

As the cloud moved east, flights were halted at Frankfurt airport, Europe’s third-busiest terminal, and at 10 other German airports including Duesseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. No flights were allowed either at the Ramstein Air Base, a key US military hub in south-western Germany.

Only about 120 trans-Atlantic flights reached European airports this morning compared to 300 on a normal day. About 60 flights between Asia and Europe were cancelled.

Sweden and Norway declared skies in the far north to be safe again for travel even as flights in both capitals – Stockholm and Oslo – were still on a lockdown. Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who was in New York, managed to get a flight to Madrid, but aides said they were still not sure when or how he would get back to Norway.

Slovakia closed its airspace and Poland expanded its no-fly zone to most of the country, excluding the southern cities of Krakow and Rzeszow. Belgium extended its flight restrictions until late Saturday morning.

The World Health Organisation said the ash cloud mostly remained high in the atmosphere on Friday, but it could pose a health risk if particles reached the ground. It advised people to try to stay indoors if the ash fell, because inhaling the particles can cause respiratory problems, especially for those suffering from asthma and respiratory diseases.

The volcano caused ministers and officials from at least 12 countries to miss the start of a European Union finance ministers meeting in Madrid.

Anxious Polish officials also worried that the ash could threaten the arrival of world leaders for Sunday’s state funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria, in the southern city of Krakow.

So far, President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are among those coming and no one has cancelled.

President Kacyznski’s family insisted they wanted the funeral to go ahead as planned.

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