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European nations are facing a third day of flight disruptions, as thick
clouds of ash from a volcano eruption in Iceland continue to drift
across the continent.
Most of the airspace over northern and central Europe has been closed. The European air traffic control agency (Eurocontrol) said there would be only 6,000 flights across the continent Saturday, down from the usual 22,000.
The cancellations have stranded thousands of passengers and are costing airlines hundreds of millions of dollars daily.
A senior meteorological officer at the Guernsey Met Office in England (Martin Crozier) says wind patterns indicate the volcano could affect air travel for the next several days.
The volcanic ash includes particles of rock, glass and sand that pose a
serious threat to aircraft. In addition to the travel problems,
officials are urging people with breathing problems to stay indoors.
The shutdown of air travel is the most extensive since the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.
Rail services, ferries and taxi companies in Europe say they have seen
a huge increase in customers as a result of the disruptions.
World leaders are among those whose travels have been affected. German
Chancellor Angela Merkel was not able to make it home from her visit to
the United States, and spent the night in Lisbon, Portugal.
There is also concern about whether world leaders, including U.S.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, will be
able to get to Poland for Sunday's funeral for President Lech
Kaczynski. Some delegations have already canceled their trips.
The volcano in southeastern Iceland began erupting Wednesday for the
second time in a month. The volcano had been dormant for nearly 200
The eruption sent a plume of ash several kilometers into the air. Winds pushed the cloud south and east over Europe.
Experts say the volcano could continue to erupt for days or even months to come.
Our Kolkata stringer Gautam Gupta reports how flights in India , particularly in Kolkata , has been affected.