Volcanic Ash Causes Air Traffic Chaos in Europe
    2010-04-17 14:28:09     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Jin

Passengers ask for latest information about their flights at Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, capital of France, on April 16, 2010. Airports in Paris area and northern France continued the general suspension on Friday as cloud of volcano ash hovering the sky grounded almost all flights, yet numerous passengers stranded at the airport stayed in calm waiting. [Photo: Xinhua]

As the cloud was moving south and east, hundreds of thousands of passengers were stranded throughout the continent due to flight cancellations since Wednesday. Airport authorities have suggested passengers contact their airlines to confirm their flight schedules before going to the airport.

In Hungary, the Malev Hungarian Airlines canceled 44 of its 50 departures and Budapest-based discount carrier Wizz Air canceled 66 percent of its flights, mainly because destination airports had already closed their air space. Most flights from Western Europe to Hungary were also canceled.

Hungarian Railways MAV has added extra cars to its international trains to assist passengers who must travel.

At Moscow airports, more than 80 flights have been delayed or canceled, said Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency.

Local media reported that the airspace of Russia's western enclave of Kaliningrad has been closed and flights suspended due to the volcanic ash.

Weather departments from Russia's northwestern city of St. Petersburg said no volcanic ash has so far been observed in the region's airspace, but air traffic there might well be affected in the future.

At least 185 flights were canceled in Portugal on Friday, the country's airports office said.

Portela airport in the capital Lisbon had the most cancellations, affecting 77 flights, including 40 departures and 37 arrivals, the office said in a statement.

In the airport of Faro, Algarve, south of the country, 69 flights were canceled.

The air traffic chaos also disrupted some European state leaders' travel schedules. While Portuguese President Anibal Cavaco Silva is stranded in Prague, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on her way back home from the United States, will have to stay in Lisbon till Saturday after her flight was forced to land by the ash cloud on Friday.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates paid a courtesy call to Merkel after she arrived at the airport. She will spend the night in a hotel under tight security.

The large scale air traffic halt threatens the arrival of world leaders for a state funeral on Sunday for late Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was killed in a plane crash last Saturday.

South Korean Prime Minister Chung Un-chan' office said the prime minister has called off his scheduled trip for the funeral due to the shutdown of airports in Europe.

Poland, which is shutting most of its airspace, has considered delaying the funeral, but the bereaved family does not want to move the date.

The funeral ceremonies will start as planned, said Presidential Minister Jacek Sasin.

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