An ash cloud from a volcano in Chile continued to disrupt air travel around New Zealand Thursday as the debris dropped even lower over the country.

Air New Zealand joined other airlines in cancelling some domestic and international flights as the cloud from Chile’s Puyehue volcano dropped to less than 4,000 metres over New Zealand’s South Island.

Other airlines had already grounded most operations, but Air New Zealand had continued with flights over the past week, saying it was safe to fly when the ash was at a higher altitude.

The airline’s chief pilot David Morgan said in a statement that they had been working closely with authorities to maintain services.

“However, ash at these new low levels gives us no choice but to cancel some services,” Captain Morgan said.

Operations at Australia’s Perth airport had to be closed down almost completely Wednesday. Australia’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin said the ash cloud had split, with the new cloud developing at the lower altitude of 4,570 metres.

The ash cloud has been blown around the lower southern hemisphere since the eruption earlier this month, disrupting air traffic across South America, Australia and New Zealand.

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