Page last updated at 19:48 GMT, Thursday, 15 April 2010 20:48 UK

Live: Volcanic cloud over Europe

The volcanic ash cloud seen over Iceland
The volcanic cloud seen at its source

Welcome to our live coverage of the volcanic ash cloud over northern Europe. This live page will update through the day. Please refresh for the latest news, analysis and advice from experts and BBC correspondents. Send us your views using the form on the right.

2045 The BBC is discontinuing this live update page. For the latest developments, please go to our main news page.

2042 The European air traffic control organisation Eurocontrol says it expects half of all transatlantic flights to be cancelled on Friday, AFP reports.

2037 Monica Robb, who lives under the flightpath at Heathrow Airport tells the BBC she had a "peaceful" day because of the ash cloud - her first in a long time. Read more about how people living in the area had some respite from the noisy planes

2026 This is the official latest statement from Nats, the UK's air traffic control authority: "The cloud of volcanic ash continues to cover much of the UK. Following a review of the latest Met Office information, Nats advises that restrictions will remain in place in UK controlled airspace until 1300 BST tomorrow, Friday 16 April, at the earliest.

However, flights from Northern Ireland and the Western Isles of Scotland to and from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Prestwick may be allowed in the period from 0100 BST to 1300 BST tomorrow, subject to individual co-ordination. North Atlantic traffic to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Prestwick and Belfast may also be allowed in the period.

We will review further Met Office information, and at 0230 BST tomorrow we will advise the arrangements that will be in place through to 1800 BST tomorrow. However, be aware that the situation cannot be said to be improving with any certainty as the forecast affected area appears to be closing in from east to west. We continue to work closely with airports, airlines, and the rest of Europe to understand and mitigate the implications of the volcanic eruption." Read more about Nats at their website.

2025 Nats says some UK airspace restrictions will stay in place until 1300 BST on Friday.

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2020 Pippa Elstone in Guildford says:

I was due to fly with British Airways today, they have completely shut down communication. I cannot get hold of customer service on the phone or rebook my flight through the website. The company has handled the crisis appallingly. I have a new born baby and a three-year-old and was left stranded at Geneva airport with no help or advice from BA.

2012 The BBC's Sara Orchard at London's St Pancras International Train Station said ticketless passengers who turned up there had to wait for hours before finding out Eurostar was not able to take them. She says that all of Eurostar's services are booked on Friday.

2008 Gavin Hewitt, the BBC's Europe editor, says much of northern Europe has been turned into an unprecedented "no fly zone", and nobody quite knows in what direction or in what intensity the cloud of volcanic ash is going to move.

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2000 Adam Bourne, Stromness in the Orkney Islands, says:

Just been out with some friends, and there is definitely a bitter, sulphurous taste in the air. Not a nice taste to have in your mouth. Looks like it's moved down from Shetland.

1951 The European Commission confirms that air passengers who are grounded because of the ash cloud can still claim most of their European Union rights covering meal and accommodation costs, even though the disruption is beyond the control of the airlines.

1948 The airspace over northern Poland is also closed, AFP reports.

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1927 Simon Martin in St Austell says:

I am in Cornwall and our cars have a fine deposit of dusty ash on them! Looking forward to the sunset.

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1927 Gordon tells the BBC:

I've just been into Dubai airport and Emirates say they are not going to give stranded passengers hotels etc as its not their fault, all they did was take my number so they can advise me of new flight timings

1924 The British Lung Foundation says that the ash cloud over Scotland is "unlikely to pose a health hazard" to people's lungs because it is not at ground level but it warned people with lung conditions to keep their medication with them as a precautionary measure.

1920 Air France cancels all flights entering and leaving Paris on Friday morning because of the ash cloud, the agency AFP reports.

1918 Transport Secretary Lord Adonis says he is "closely monitoring the situation" and will be meeting with key transport officials on Friday morning.

1912 Airline Flybe announces it is cancelling all flights up until 1300BST on Friday and more than 25 services due to run after that.

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1910 Zarana Patel in Chicago, says:

Wow. What's neat is that volcanoes from 1815 and the 1830s spread ash around the world, catalyzing the incredibly vivid, gorgeous sunsets that Joseph Turner, GB's famed painter, captured so beautifully. Painters of today... go for it


1906 photohumourist tweets: The birds are so lovely without aircraft drowning out their song. This part of London seems so quiet today. #volcano

Read photohumourist's tweets

1900 A group of scientists are on their way towards the volcanic ash cloud on a specially designed plane as part of an attempt to collect some samples. They want to gather data which will help them find out more about the environmental impact.

1846 Sarah Keith-Lucas from the BBC's weather centre says reports are coming in of some of the ash beginning to reach the ground. She says people in the Shetland Isles are reporting a bitter taste in their mouths and a thin film of ash could appear elsewhere.

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1840 Bev Ewen-Smith in Portimao, Portugal says:

It is pretty clear from the Modis satellite image that there is no dust over most of UK. Another example where fear of litigation will eventually bring everything to its knees. Thanks lawyers!

1823 It's not just travellers in Europe who have been hit. the Air Transportation Association in the USA says that at least 100 flights haven't been able to take off for Europe because of the restrictions on the other side of the Atlantic. Just to reiterate - here's our guide to passengers' rights.

1803 The BBC's transport correspondent Richard Scott says that up to 600,000 travellers across the UK have been stranded because of the flight cancellations.

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1755 Caro in Beijing says:

We're supposed to be flying home tomorrow morning but flight cancelled. BA can only offer a flight on the 27th - an extra 11 days! They have seats but won't upgrade us without paying thousands extra and the insurance policy won't pay for an alternative flight. Crazy!

1733 It's not just tourists. British sport has been hit by the volcanic ash cloud. Rugby League Challenge Cup games are in doubt - and the Great Britain Ice Hockey team's trip to Slovenia will only happen if the team spend 26 hours on a bus.

1730 Time to recap. The cloud emitting from the volcano in Iceland is still drifting south-east into Europe. Air traffic has been grounded in the UK until at least 0700 BST Friday - although there is no guarantee that flights will resume then. There will be an update from the national air traffic agency at about 2000 BST.

Elsewhere, the Republic of Ireland has told planes to stay on the runway . France has closed Paris' two airports and about two dozen to the north. Scandinavian nations have also been hit very badly by the cloud, as has northern Russia.

Germany is still assessing the situation - which means that lots of people booked on long-haul flights are considering reaching Frankfurt to make connections. When will it end? Nobody knows. The European air traffic agency says the disruption could last for another 48 hours. So as the UK hunkers down under the volcanic ash cloud, it's a case of waiting to see if the wind changes direction.

Click here for a satellite image of the ash cloud.


A lot of people have been asking to see a satellite image of the cloud as it passes over Europe. So here's one taken by a Nasa satellite and distributed by the University of Dundee. It really is quite something.

1648 Eurocontrol, the air traffic control agency, says that the volcanic cloud could lead to two more days of disruption.

1640 Trivia time. According to the US Geological Survey, it knows of 100 incidents up until 2000 during which an aircraft flew into volcanic ash clouds. In some cases the engines did shut down after sucking in debris - but then successfully restarted once they were clear of the area. So, just to underline that, no fatal incidents that anyone can recall. You can read the fascinating story of what happened to one British Airways jet in 1982 on the Magazine .

1625 All five of the West Midlands' air ambulances have been grounded, with crews redeployed into rapid response cars. They say they are waiting for advice from civil aviation authority.

1612 France says that Paris' two main airports are to close along with almost two dozen more across the north of the closure. The airports will be closed from 2100 GMT.

Richard Black


The BBC's Richard Black says:

This eruption happened underneath a glacier, and the combined power of fire and ice released dust in an explosive plume that soared more than ten kilometres into the atmosphere. But the overall volume of material released is comparatively small. Experts believe the dust will dissipate naturally through the atmosphere, coming down to the Earth's surface gradually. That suggests a minimal impact on human health. The key question is what the volcano does next.

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1555: Mark Reuby in Canterbury says:

Eight days ago I was there watching the first volcano at close range. Probably my favourite travel moment to date, especially as Top Gear were filming there. We were told a local Icelandic "mystic meg" had predicted three volcanoes will blow this year in Iceland - one more to go and it's the big one! Your stories of travel disruption

Judith Moritz

1540 The BBC's Judith Morritz at Manchester Airport:

"There are plenty of people here, it's a very busy terminal - but none of the passengers are going anywhere today. Hotels around the airport are getting fully booked. Some people may have to sleep here this evening, some are taking decision hour by hour, it is a very fluid situation."

Largest UK airspace restriction in living memory
Large parts of northern and western Europe now affected.
Cloud could seriously damage aircraft engines
But cloud's high altitude means little risk to health

1538 A bad day for airlines - but if you're in the shipping business … P&O Ferries says its call centre has been "inundated" with inquiries. A company spokesman says: "We have just booked a gentleman onto our Dover to Calais service, bound for Beijing which he now intends to reach via a flight from Paris instead of London. All available staff have been called in to our contact centre. We are effectively operating at peak summer pace, on what is normally a quiet Thursday in April." We also hear the same goes for Eurostar - it's getting hundreds of inquiries from stranded travellers and is asking people to only turn up to travel if they have confirmed reservations.

Lorna Gordon

1531 The BBC's Lorna Gordon live at Glasgow Airport:

"There is usually a very busy check-in line of desks here, but it's completely empty at the moment. The terminal is more like an echoey aircraft hanger. Normally there would be some 15,000 passengers passing through daily. Only one plane landed from Toronto before the restrictions came into effect at midnight."

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1506 johnnywilson says:

For the past year I've been saving up for a round the world trip supposed to be leaving tomorrow on a flight to Hong Kong. Thanks Mother Nature

1502 This is the official statement from Nats, the UK's air traffic control authority. "The cloud of volcanic ash is now spread across the UK and continuing to travel south. In line with international civil aviation policy, no flights other than agreed emergencies are currently permitted in UK controlled airspace. Following a review of the latest Met Office information, Nats advises that these restrictions will remain in place in UK controlled airspace until 0700 tomorrow, Friday 16 April, at the earliest. We will review further Met Office information and at 2000 today (BST) we will advise the arrangements that will be in place through to 1300 (BST) tomorrow. We continue to work closely with airports, airlines, and the rest of Europe to understand and mitigate the implications of the volcanic eruption." Read more about Nats at their website.


1449 gxusm tweets:

Coming in part way through the news this morning, thought the world had ended. Read gxusm's tweets

1435 The BBC's Victoria Gill has written this excellent guide to why volcanic ash poses such a problem to jet engines.

1425 Lets recap where we are with the closures of airspace. The UK has closed all its airspace until at least 0700 BST FRIDAY. If you were due to fly out, contact your airline. Don't go to the airport. The republic of Ireland has closed its airspace too. They have now been joined by Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The duration of these closures is all dependent on where the volcanic ash cloud drifts. There has been partial closures of airspace in the Netherlands and Finland and northern Russia has cancelled some flights too. Germany and France are monitoring the prevailing weather conditions and are considering their options as more accurate forecast data becomes available.

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1353 Sam in London says:

Absolutely beautiful images - mother nature at her very best. I find it amazing that this series of eruptions has been going on for a good few weeks now, with little UK media coverage. But get in the way of a £50 'getaway flight' to Europe and suddenly it's bigger news than the election. In pictures: Volcano erupts in Iceland

1349 What are your rights if your flight has been grounded? Airlines have procedures for dealing with situations like bad weather cancellations. You can read our guide to your rights.

1346 Nobody is taking chances. Despite flying at altitudes far below the volcanic ash cloud, the BBC has been told that the air ambulance services for Warwickshire, Northants, Derbyshire, Leceistershire and Rutland has also been grounded.

1333 AFP news agency reports that officials have said that Belgian airspace is to be closed completely at 1430 GMT.

1333 Wikipedia's page on the volcanic fissure in Iceland that's behind all the trouble.


1328 British Airways tweets:

The network outage at our UK call centres has now been resolved. To contact us, please dial 0844 493 0787.

Read British Airways' tweets

1325 Dr Peter Abbot is a geoscientist at the University of St Andrews. He said that people could be treated to lovely sunsets as the particles reflect the sun's rays.

He said: "Fine volcanic ash can have an impact on human health but this cloud is at a very high level in the atmosphere and it is a very low density and so it should not have an effect. It will be carried within winds and generally dispersed in the atmosphere and rained out over the land surface of the United Kingdom and Europe."


1310 Littlesapling tweets:

Dear Iceland, we said 'send Cash'.

Read Littlesapling's tweets

1300From the BBC's Kirsten Campbell at the Scottish Parliament: Scotland's First Minister has set up an emergency response group to deal with the volcanic ash incident and the resultant disruption to Scottish airports.

Alex Salmond will chair a meeting of what's called the Scottish Government Resilience Room. Ministers and officials will gather this morning and then again this afternoon to discuss arrangements to deal with the situation.

Jane Peel

1259 From BBC correspondent Jane Peel:

Nats has confirmed that today's closure of UK airspace is unprecedented. After the 9-11 terrorist attacks in America, transatlantic flights were suspended and the airspace over London alone was closed. But this is the first time all flights into and out of the UK have been grounded.

1254 So what's behind all the chaos? It's an eruption in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of Iceland - the second in a month. The second eruption has sent ash to far greater altitudes than the previous event. It's now at some 55,000ft - and that means the cloud can travel faster and further than it would were it nearer the ground. Volcanic clouds comprise tiny particles of sharp rock, or even glass, which will damage machinery on contact at high speeds. Hence the threat to aircraft engines.

1242 The latest news is that UK airspace is now closed because of the volcanic cloud. The Air Traffic Control Service (Nats) has said no flights will be allowed in or out of UK airspace until 1800 BST amid fears of engine damage. Up to 4,000 flights across northern Europe have so far been disrupted as the cloud moves southwards.

Donna Thomas is among those stuck at Manchester Airport - she's in a party of 10 who had been heading to the US. "I should be in Orlando in Florida meeting Mickey Mouse," she tells the BBC. "I'm gutted but there's nothing we can do."

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