There were no flights to and from Britain for the second consecutive day on Friday as restrictions around British airspace which has been hit by potentially dangerous volcanic ash drifting in from Iceland were further extended until Saturday.

The National Air Traffic Services (Nats) described the situation as “dynamic and subject to change”.

“We continue to work closely with airports, airlines and the rest of Europe to understand and mitigate the implications of the volcanic eruption,” it said.

The problem appeared to be spreading across Europe with Scandinavian countries looking particularly vulnerable as the wind, carrying the ash, changed direction.

The worst-affected countries in mainland Europe included France, Germany and Poland.

The European air traffic control organisation said the situation was “as bad as on Thursday or worse” with the number of “lost” flights expected to rise to 17,000.

This is the worst lockdown of European airspace since the Second World War and has disrupted travel plans of tens of thousands of travellers.

But authorities are taking no chances after experts warned that even a tiny particle of ash containing sand, glass and rock could damage aircraft posing a potential safety risk.

They recalled a 1982 incident involving a British Airways jumbo which had a miraculous escape after all its engines jammed as it flew through a thick cloud of volcanic ash.

As planes remained grounded, there was a scramble for seats on trains, ferries and coaches. Eurostar reported heavy rush and warned passengers not to come to station unless they had a firm booking.

“We are carrying more than 38,000 people today and all our trains are full…We are telling potential customers without bookings not to come to St. Pancras (the main London terminal) because they will not be able to travel,” a spokeswoman told the BBC.

Ferry services also reported a big rise in passenger numbers with some operators saying they were fully booked for the next two days.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised to the public but said safety was of paramount importance.

The lockdown, which started shortly before noon on Thursday, was expected to be lifted on Friday morning but after a review it was extended for another 24 hours. Even after restrictions are lifted it would take several days for normal services to be restored.

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