International

'Huge Disruption' As Icelandic Volcano Eruption Grounds European Flights

In this image made available by the Icelandic Coastguard taken Wednesday April 14, 2010, smoke and s i

Beautiful, but dangerous. (AP Photo/Icelandic Coastguard, hand-out) hide caption

itoggle caption
In this image made available by the Icelandic Coastguard taken Wednesday April 14, 2010, smoke and s

Beautiful, but dangerous. (AP Photo/Icelandic Coastguard, hand-out)

(Be sure to click your "refresh" button because we've been updating this post, as you'll see below.)

By Mark Memmott

Air traffic has been halted across much of Northern Europe because of danger from ash that has spewed into the atmosphere from a volcano in Iceland.

As the BBC's Colin Blaine told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep, there's been a "huge disruption" as the effects ripple across flight routes from Ireland to Scotland, England on on to the continent:

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(Note: The connection with Blaine cut off toward the end of the interview. That happens sometimes on live radio. As you'll hear, Steve quickly summed up the news.)

Thousands of travelers have been stranded at some of the world's busiest airports, including London's Heathrow. It's not clear how long flights will be grounded, but the Associated Press reports that Irish authorities, for example, estimated the ban on travel through their airways would last at least eight hours.

The BBC notes the concern is that " tiny particles of rock, glass and sand contained in the ash cloud would be sufficient to jam aircraft engines."

From Paris, NPR's Eleanor Beardsley rounded up the news:

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Update at 2:40 p.m. ET. The White House, AP says, says President Barack Obama still plans to fly to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of its president Lech Kaczynski — but that U.S. officials are monitoring the problems created by the volcanic ash.

Update at 2:30 p.m. ET. The AP has posted some "raw video" from Iceland and of scenes at some European airports:

Update at 11:55 a.m. ET. Reuters now reports that "hundreds of thousands of passeners" have been stranded across northern Europe, and that:

"The European air safety organiaation said the disruption, the biggest seen in the region, could last another two days and a leading volcano expert said the ash could present intermittent problems to air traffic for six months if the eruption continued."

Update at 10:05 a.m. ET. In its latest report, the Associated Press says there's a chance the air travel disruptions could continue "for days or even weeks":

"Ash from Iceland's spewing volcano halted air traffic across a wide swathe of Europe on Thursday, grounding planes on a scale not seen since the 9/11 terror attacks. Thousands of flights were canceled, tens of thousands of passengers were stranded and officials said it was not clear when it would be safe enough to fly again.

"In a sobering comment, one scientist in Iceland said the ejection of volcanic ash — and therefore disruptions in air travel — could continue for days or even weeks."

Update at 9:15 a.m. ET: Jalopnik.com examines "how volcanic ash can kill an airplane." It says that if a passenger jet flies through air saturated with volcanic ash, "glassy particles ... inhaled by the engines instantly melt. In the course of exhaust, the glassy materials are rapidly cooled down in the turbine chamber, stick on the turbine vanes, and disturb the flow of high-pressure combustion gases. This disorder of the flow may stop the entire engine in serious cases."

A family sits on the floor as they wait for flights at Manchester Airport in north-west England on A i

Waiting at the airport in Manchester. (Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images) hide caption

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A family sits on the floor as they wait for flights at Manchester Airport in north-west England on A

Waiting at the airport in Manchester. (Andrew Yates/AFP/Getty Images)

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