Volcano eruptions; flight disruptions in Europe worsen
LONDON (AP) - The volcanic ash drifting from Iceland has grounded thousands of flights across Europe, but has thus far forced no change in a planned state funeral for Poland's late president.
The Eurocontrol air traffic agency says nearly two-thirds of Friday's scheduled 28,000 daily flights were canceled, nearly double the number grounded Thursday. Only about 120 trans-Atlantic flights made it to European airports Friday, less than half the normal load of 300. Another 60 flights between Asia and Europe were also canceled.
The ash cloud has also forced the military to adjust. Five German soldiers wounded in Afghanistan were diverted to Turkey instead of Germany. U.S. medical evacuations for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are being flown directly to Washington rather than to a care facility in Germany. The U.S. military has also stopped using temporarily closed air bases in the U.K. and Germany.
The International Air Transport Association estimates the volcano is costing the industry at least $200 million a day. Polish officials are concerned that the ash cloud could threaten the arrival of world leaders for Sunday's state funeral for President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria in the Krakow. His family has said it wants the funeral to be held as scheduled.
A number of European flights at Sea-Tac Airport have been canceled because of the eruption of a volcano in Iceland. Travelers should check with their airline for flight status. The European air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, says disruptions are worse Friday than Thursday because of the cloud of volcanic ash drifting east.
The volcano lies under a glacier. Researchers are flying as close surveying molten rock surging up. It's thought to have popped the ice like a champagne cork, the force creating these massive plumes, a mix of rock sand and glass.
Prof. William Menke at the Earth and Environmental Sciences with Columbia University says "if you imagine throwing a bucket full of beach sand into the engine of a big airplane, you can imagine it's not going to do the airplane any good".
In parts of Iceland, day has turned to night as the ash rains down. Geophysicists aren't sure what will happen next.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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