Flight disruptions in Europe get even worse - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Flight disruptions in Europe get even worse

LONDON (AP) - Ice chunks the size of houses tumbled down from a volcano in Iceland as hot gases melted a glacier, and the skies over Europe remained eerily quiet for a second day Friday as thousands of planes stayed on the tarmac to avoid volcanic ash.

Eurocontrol, the European air traffic agency, said there would be no relief Friday from the massive flight disruptions that have upended travel in Europe and reverberated throughout the world.

In fact, it said disruptions would be even worse than Thursday - when over half a dozen European nations closed their air space - and the delays would continue into Saturday.

"We expect around 11,000 flights to take place today in European airspace. On a normal day, we would expect 28,000," said Kyla Evans, a spokeswoman for Eurocontrol. "The cloud of volcanic ash is continuing to move east and southeast."

No more than 120 trans-Atlantic flights reached European airports Friday morning, compared to 300 on a normal day, she added.

Fearing that microscopic particles of highly abrasive hash could endanger passengers by causing aircraft engines to fail, authorities shut down air space over Britain, Ireland, 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, 24 in France alone.

As the cloud moved east, flights were halted Friday at Frankfurt airport, Europe's third-busiest terminal, and at 10 other German airports including Duesseldorf, Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne. Poland expanded its no-fly zone to most of the country, excluding the southern cities of Krakow and Rzeszow.

The ash is spewing from a volcano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier, which began erupting Wednesday for the second time in less than a month.

About 700 people from rural areas near the volcano in southern Iceland were evacuated Thursday because of flash flooding, as torrents of water and ice chunks roared down the mountain.

Most were later allowed to return home, but more flash floods are expected as long as the volcano keeps erupting, said Rognvaldur Olafsson of the Civil Protection Department.

The ash cloud, drifting between 20,000 feet and 36,000 feet (6,000 meters and 11,000 meters) high and invisible from the ground, left tens of thousands of travelers stranded around the globe and blocked the main air flight path between the U.S. east coast and Europe.

NATS, the private company which controls British air space, said the air over England would remain closed at least until 1 a.m. Saturday (0000 GMT) but that some international flights might be allowed into Northern Ireland and western Scotland later in the day.

Sweden and Norway, however, declared skies in the far north to be safe again for travel even as flights in both capitals were still on a lockdown.

One Toronto-bound flight departed from Glasgow, Scotland on Friday morning and three Thomson Airways international flights were cleared to land.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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