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Iceland's volcanic ash halts flights across Europe

Apr 15, 2010 7:00:00 AM - thestate.com
Ash clouds from Iceland's spewing volcano disrupted air traffic across Europe on Thursday as authorities closed air space over Britain, Ireland and the Nordic countries. Tens of thousands of passengers were stranded as flights were canceled and it was not clear when it would be safe enough to fly again.

Britain's Civil Aviation Authority said non-emergency flights would be banned in all airports until at least 6 p.m. (1700 GMT, 1 p.m. EDT). Irish authorities also closed their air space for at least eight hours, along with closures by aviation authorities in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The move shut down London's Heathrow airport, a major trans-Atlantic hub which handles upwards of 1,200 flights and 180,000 passengers per day. The closure also affected London's second- and third-largest airports, Gatwick and Stansted. Shutdowns and cancellations spread to France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland.

"I just wish I was on a beach in Mexico," said Ann Cochrane, 58, of Toronto, a passenger stranded in Glasgow.

In Iceland, hundreds of people have fled rising floodwaters since the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH'-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) glacier erupted Wednesday for the second time in less than a month. As water gushed down the mountainside, rivers rose up to 10 feet (3 meters) by Wednesday night.