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Updated: May 17, 2010 19:13 IST

Volcanic ash closes Heathrow, Gatwick airports

DPA
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This image provided by NASA shows the plume of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, reaching a height of four to five kilometers (13,000-17,000 feet), rises above a sea of clouds on Wednesday May 12, 2010.
AP This image provided by NASA shows the plume of ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano, reaching a height of four to five kilometers (13,000-17,000 feet), rises above a sea of clouds on Wednesday May 12, 2010.

In a replay of last month’s travel chaos, Britain’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports as well as others in northern Britain, Scotland and Ireland have been closed until 0600 GMT Monday due to volcanic ash from Iceland, British officials said.

Officials said the ash cloud had swung south, making the closures necessary.

The decision by Britain’s civil air traffic control also applied to northern British airports, such as Manchester, those in Northern Ireland and several in Scotland. The Republic of Ireland was also affected, with Dublin airport closing down until noon local time.

Sir Richard Branson, president of Virgin Atlantic airline, objected to the closures, calling the shutdown of Manchester airspace for example “once again ... beyond a joke” and calling for “strong leadership” to avoid doing further damage to the British economy.

“All the test flights by airlines, aircraft and engine manufacturers have shown no evidence that airlines could not continue to fly completely safety,” he said.

A British Airways spokesman suggested that the airlines themselves should decide whether they can fly.

The ash comes from a volcano in Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull glacier, which started erupting in March. In mid April, the continuing ash output started disrupting flights in and out of Europe, causing major economic and logistical havoc.

Periodic airport closures across Europe have continued since mid April.

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