Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Sunday, 18 April 2010 18:11 UK

Volcano cloud as it happened: 18 April

Picture of Iceland volcano eruption by Oli Haukur: 19 April 2010

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. All times are in BST.

1805 The BBC is discontinuing this live update page for today. For the latest developments, please go to our main news page.

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1800 Richard Hewitt from Detroit, in the US, is cautiously optimistic: "KLM have now carried out test flights OK, and I have flights booked - so the end may be in sight!"

1758 Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has been forced to cancel a visit to Europe because of the disruption, the AFP news agency reports.

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1755Stevek from Seattle, in the US emails: " I'm here at work at Seattle airport. It's all quiet except for the regional carriers flying. The only flight leaving Seattle international is Icelandair ironically."

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1751Bas Slabbers in Oreland, US, emails: "I'm stuck in the USA but I have to be back in the Netherlands next week. I don't understand two things: Why is there no EU government control over the situation and why aren't airlines chartering cruise ships to move people around the EU or even transatlantic?"

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1747 Sarah Fraser from Aylesbury, Bucks emails: "I went to Denmark on Thursday for a four-hour meeting with only my passport and money. After spending three days at an airport hotel I took some action. So far I have joined a couple of Danes in a 1,600km non-stop odyssey from Copenhagen to Dijon. I was greeted at Dijon by striking French railway workers. I'm now waiting for a train, hopefully Monday to Cherbourg (another 1,000km) to use my foot passenger ticket on the Brittany Ferries midnight sailing on Monday. And I am still in the clothes I set off in on Thursday!"

1745 Attendance has soared at the US Coachella music festival in California , despite seven musicians missing their gigs because of the travel disruptions, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Other celebrities hit by the chaos include TV presenter Gary Lineker who only made his UK Match of the Day show after a near 24-hour journey from Tenerife to London.

1730 Up to British 40 neurologists fear they will have to cancel their clinic appointments because they cannot get back to the UK from a meeting of the American Academy of neurology in Toronto, says Mike Boggild, a consultant neurologist from Liverpool.

1721 A classic rock list of songs to help stranded passengers is doing the rounds, including Dance On A Volcano by Genesis and David Bowie's Ashes to Ashes.

1719 UK Liberal Democrats transport spokesman Norman Baker says travel companies must not use the situation as "an opportunity to cash in on travellers desperate to get home".

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1713Sarah from Wales emails: "My boyfriend has been in Afghanistan for three months and flies back to Cyprus tonight. Just over two weeks ago I gave birth to our son who my boyfriend hasn't seen yet and now we don't know when he'll be able to get home!"

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1705 Ryan Baker from Doha, Qatar emails: "I flew out of Melbourne, Australia to Doha, Qatar and was supposed to be on a connecting flight to Heathrow on Friday.

Luckily we have been put up at the Ritz Carlton in Doha with all rooms and meals paid for. Unfortunately due to visa restrictions we cannot leave the hotel but we are all making the most of the warm weather and sun by the pool."

1700 Ryanair and EasyJet passengers stuck in Madrid tell the BBC they have joined forces in a bid to get the budget airlines to find a way to get them all home.

Teacher Christine Blanchard says she and fellow passengers have organised meetings in hotels and are going to lobby the companies with their concerns. Click here for more on her story and other passengers' tales.

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1645 pintofstripe in London, UK, tweets: Sitting in my garden in Wapping with no aeroplanes overhead. Eerily peaceful. #ashtag http://twitpic.com/1glez8"

Aerial view taken on April 18, 2010 shows Lufthansa airplanes standing on the tarmac at the airport in Frankfurt

1635 European airport and airline unions, the Association of European Airlines (AEA) and European Region of Airports Council International (Aci Europe) have called for a review of the flight restrictions in place.

They say safety must come first but "the procedures applied in other parts of the world for volcanic eruptions do not appear to require the kind of restrictions that are presently being imposed in Europe."

1626 Passengers in Paris have been expressing their frustration.

French traveller Linda Badis told AP: ""I am feeling really angry. Really angry. I feel like they keep telling us everyday that we have to wait until tomorrow. I've been here since Friday. Honestly now it's the straw that's broken the camel's back knowing that there won't be any planes nor any reimbursement." Read more experiences of travellers wordwide: Volcano ash - Your stories .

1620 British Airways is to stage a test flight from Heathrow Airport later.

1617 Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers says it is worrying there is no "end in sight" to the disruption.

She says the crisis was costing the economy millions and those stranded abroad needed government reassurance everything possible was being done to get people home.

1613 German Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived home in Berlin this afternoon - two days late from a trip to California after her journey turned into a cross-Europe odyssey, reports the Associated Press.

1611 Germany opens six airports for flights heading east until 1900 BST, and several will remain open in southern France.

1600 Most Norwegian airspace is now open, airport operator Avinor says.

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1555Will Jenkinson from Fleet in the UK emails: "My story is a pretty typical one: our flight from Toulouse to Heathrow was cancelled on Friday evening, so after a night in an airport hotel on Friday, we drove exactly 1,000km in a hire car to Calais. We managed to get on the last ferry as foot passengers.

Arriving in Dover at 2300, there were no buses or trains so we slept in the terminal. Just got home around an hour ago, after catching the fast train to St Pancras and getting the tube out to Heathrow. Very expensive overall, but good to be home!"

1550 UK ministers are taking part in meeting to discuss the contingency plans to deal with the disruption.

"The meeting will cover a number of issues, including the assistance being provided to those Britons who have been unable to travel home, and the implications for industry. They will also look at what more can be done on a European level," Downing Street says.

1545 Experts are analysing the results of a test flight in British air space, with another test plane set to leave later. Transport Secretary Lord Adonis says data from the test will be pooled with information collected from the Netherlands.

1535Iceland's President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson says the consequences of what is happening are unknown: "What we are witnessing are the forces of nature taking power in to their own hands and we are seeing how fragile human beings, even our knowledge, and scientific expertise is when faced with these enormous forces."

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1534 Christopher Scargill, Torrevieja, Spain emails: "People stranded in Spain should try bus services. We got our son on a bus from Torrevieja (nr. Alicante) via Madrid to Paris at noon yesterday and he arrived in Paris lunchtime today. He says the coach companies were putting on extra buses from Madrid to Paris. The ferries from around Caen and Le Havre seem less booked up than the Calais ones and there are frequent trains from Paris St Lazare."

1530 Architect Mark Leslie tells the BBC about the "near mutiny" on Saturday night at Portsmouth's ferry terminal where immigration authorities insisted on checking passports.

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Chaos at Portsmouth ferry terminal

1524 We have just replaced ourtop photo with one of the Icelandic eruption sites sent in by Oli Haukur. He says he took it early on Sunday at the police boundary 10km (six miles) away from the volcano, in between the towns of Hvolsvollur and Fljotshlid.

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1521 Mark Cairns from Lisburn in Northern Ireland emails: "You'll start to see the fruit and veg shelves in the big supermarkets become empty very quickly this week. Time to start buying and producing local produce."

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1520 Mark Johns from Sutton, Surrey emails: "I'm a travel agent, we've been doing 24-hour shifts to help people to get home, but for every person we give a refund to, we lose our commission too. Looks like I won't be able to pay the rent or nursery bills this month. Would be nice of people to spare a thought for those of us trying to help at our own expense."

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1515 Raphael Basan from London emails: "I have been stuck waiting for flights to Cape Town for three days now, cancellation after cancellation. I'm shattered and depressed. Is there no end in sight?"

1510 Nats says it is waiting further guidance from the Civil Aviation Authority and is working with other bodies to try to get a better understanding of the effects of the ash cloud in a bid to find a solution.

It says there may still be a "limited opportunity" for planes in Orkney and Shetland to fly after 1900 BST. A further update is expected at 2100 BST.

1500 The UK flight restrictions will remain in place until 0700 BST on Monday 19 April, Nats, the UK's air traffic control body says.

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1453 Mike Sotiriou is a retired pilot. He emails: "I am surprised that this ash cloud is causing so much disruption and I wonder if this response is in proportion to the risk. There have only been about three incidents of problems with volcanic ash reported in the last 30 years. Why haven't there been more test flights?"

1443 Air France says its first test flight has had no problems and a second one is under way.

1440 Further restrictions are put in place on Danish and Dutch airspace, closed until 0600 GMT Monday and 1800 GMT Sunday respectively.

1436 Bryan Flynn, of Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control body, says aviation authorities were dealing with an "unknown phenomenon" but dismisses suggestions they are being over-cautious.

1430 KLM chief executive Peter Hartman was on board one of the airline's first test flights. He says there was "nothing unusual" and the company hopes to "get permission as soon as possible to partially restart our operations."

1423 People due to have bone marrow transplants are forced to wait for urgent treatment because of the flight disruption.

1412 The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) is calling for some kind of "banking-style" rescue of the airline industry because of the chaos caused by the ash. The union also asks what criteria Nats is planning to use to decide if the skies are safe?

1405 Michelle Ullyatt from P&O Ferries says staff are working "flat-out" but the company was now accepting foot-passenger bookings from Dover. She said over the past few days the company had carried 11,000 such passengers - far more than normal at this time of year.

1403 Air Berlin tells BBC Newshour it has also carried out three test flights, sending planes up to heights of 3,000m, but no harmful particles had been detected. It was planning to send more test flights to altitudes of 3,000 to 7,000m.

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1350 Historian Dan Snow tweets that his Calais flotilla rescue mission to bring back people to the UK has ended: "We have been shut down! No reason. Rescued 25 on way home shortly. NO MORE BOATS we are very sorry."

1338 EU transport ministers are expected to hold a special videoconference on Monday about the air travel crisis, say officials in Spain which holds the EU presidency, AFP news agency reports.

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1325 From Iceland, NealKarlinsky posts a picture on twitter: "People rescuing horses caught in ash overnight. http://twitpic.com/1gk112"

Passengers look a map of Europe at Geneva's International Airport on 18 April 18
Passengers at the airport in Geneva try to plot alternative routes home

1315 On social networking site Facebook's Volcanic Ash Cloud group, Luis Guerra posts: " A friend and I are stuck in Chaves Portugal… Direct flights out of Portugal to the US are now going upwards of 3k and as high as 10k USD... :("

1309 TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson relates his travel woes in his Sunday Time's column Hounded by the ash cloud on my escape from Colditz to Blighty .

1242 In South Africa's Sunday Times, cartoonist Zapiro links the fallout of the volcanic ash to the football World Cup in South Africa , where over-the-counter tickets have just gone on sale.

1235 The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is considering plans to fly troops injured in Afghanistan to coalition partner countries such as Germany for treatment if the UK airspace ban continues for much longer.

It says there are currently 550 British troops stuck at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus who were due to return to the UK and it is looking at "alternative ways" of getting them home.

1220 The European Union is to set up a committee to examine the economic impact of the ash cloud.

1215 British Airways announces the cancellation of all short haul and long haul flights on Monday.

1214 Some groups about the volcano have been set up on the social networking site Facebook. Kasper Nygaardposts on Volcanic Ash Cloud : "Anyone going from Paris to Barcelona who wants to share the rent of car???"

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1212 From Ireland, mdifranc tweets: "Cycle to office in Dublin this morning was itchy. All this ash has to fall somewhere, and I suspect we'll feel it for awhile."

1210The BBC's Lorna Gordon says Iceland is considering broadcasting an ash forecast along with the weather forecast in the country.

1200 The Icelandic Meteorological Office says the light winds prevailing in Europe and large amounts of unmelted glacial ice above the volcano means the situation is unlikely to change over the next few days.

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1156 Jerome Bertin's 15-year-old son is stranded in China with 40 other pupils. He emails: "They were due to fly back Thursday but have been informed by a business class passenger on the same BA flight they will not be flying before Monday 26 April at earliest.

"BA say they will pay for one more night, and after that they're on their own… I'm in regular touch with our son, he's run up a £250 mobile phone bill."

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1150 Jeannelise Edelsten from Chesham emails: "What is very strange is that I came back from France on Saturday afternoon (for a Calais to Dover crossing) and there was none of the "chaos" announced by all the news reporters.

"The P&O boat was pretty empty and we even managed to get an earlier ferry - so not sure Dan [Snow]'s attempts, though heroic, are truly necessary at the moment."

1140 The spread of the ash is causing greater disruption than the shutdown of air travel after the 2001 terror attacks in the US, the International Civil Aviation Authority says.

1135 For more details on the extent of the dust cloud and for projections of its future spread, have a look at the BBC's Iceland volcano in maps graphic

1120 BBC engineer Eugene Sully is waiting to leave the Spanish port of Santurtzi near Bilbao on a ferry to Portsmouth. But an extra 1,000 ticketless people are clamouring to join him.

"With 25 minutes to go till departure, there's pandemonium in the booking hall with lots of pushing and shoving as people try to work out which queue to join.

Eugene Sully
Up to 1,000 people are desperate to buy tickets to leave Santurzi

"I can hear cheering as someone ahead of me has just got their boarding card. Staff are being helpful, but look slightly overwhelmed."

Gordon Brown on air safety

1110 UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show it was a priority to make the air safe so people could fly.

He said he would be "shocked" if train and ferry companies tried to "make extra profits" because of the ash cloud from the Icelandic eruptions.

1100Jane Sheard from Leeds emails: "Great work by Dan Snow. My daughter is stuck in Florence and about to pay a huge amount to get train back to Paris. And then what? Can Dan and anybody out there keep these inflatables going to help people back?"

Lorna Gordon

1055 The BBC's Lorna Gordon in Iceland says: "Most of the country remains unaffected by falling ash but in the area immediately south of the volcano visibility has been reduced to almost zero and conditions are described as extremely unpleasant.

"Most families with children who are living in the fallout zone have chosen to leave. Those that remain are mostly farmers with livestock to look after.

"Experts estimate that around 10% of the glacial ice in the seat of the volcano has melted but there have been no flash floods for at least 24 hours.

"The stretches of road breached by the melt-water are now under repair but remain closed.

"There's great hospitality being shown to the 1,800 passengers stranded here, who have been all given free passes to museums and pools."

Dan Snow

1045 Historian Dan Snow is organising a flotilla from Calais to bring people back to the UK who are stuck in France.

He tweets: "Arrived off Calais. We're going in. http://twitpic.com/1givtt"

Boats set off to help people (Dan Snow Twitpic picture)
Presenter Dan Snow is on a mission to help those stranded because of the ash

1042 Just a reminder that the Foreign Office website contains advice for British citizens stranded abroad, while relatives in the UK can call the FCO's emergency helpline number - 0207 008 0000 - if they are concerned.

1040 UK Transport Secretary Lord Adonis says further test flights are also set to take place in the UK later. Extra rail and ferry services have also been laid on.

"British embassies and consulates around the world are providing consular assistance to those that need it, visiting airports and working with the local authorities to help stranded UK citizens."

1034 UK Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg says his sons, who spent half term with their grandmother in Spain, are stranded.

"[My wife] Miriam and spent hours on the phone trying to get through to Ryanair yesterday… I think we're like so many other people and we'll just have to wait until this volcanic cloud disappears."

1023 A camera crew shows what it is like driving into the dust cloud in Eyjafjallajokull the area worst affected by the dust cloud caused by the erupting volcano in Iceland.

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Driving into the dust cloud

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1021 Gianfranco Berrutti, from Turin in Italy, is stuck in Singapore after attending an exhibition into dentistry equipment. He emails: "It is getting difficult finding hotel rooms available in Singapore. The hotel where I am currently staying for a business trip already put me on a waiting list when today I asked to prolong my stay due to flight cancellation."

1014 The latest statement by Nats: "The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland is currently spread across the UK. Based on the latest information from the Met Office, Nats advises that the restrictions currently in place across UK controlled airspace will remain in place until at least 0100 BST tomorrow, Monday 19 April.

"There may be limited opportunity in Orkney and Shetland from 1900 BST today for some flights to operate under individual coordination with Air Traffic Control. However,it is most unlikely that many flights will operate today and anyone hoping to travel should contact their airline before travelling to the airport.

We will continue to monitor Met Office information and review our arrangements in line with that. We will advise further arrangements at approximately 1500 BST today."

1013 The volcanic ash cloud is starting to cause serious economic problems for some airlines and food importers and even postal deliveries.

1001 Nats will extend restrictions until 0100 BST on Monday 19 April but will be looking for "windows of opportunity" in that time.

1000 Football body Uefa confirms that this week's Champions League semi-final first legs will go ahead despite the travel problems caused by the volcanic ash sweeping over northern Europe, with teams travelling by road. A decision is still pending over Thursday's Europa League ties involving Liverpool and Fulham.

0954 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines says it has already carried out a test flight from Amsterdam to Dusseldorf and plans eight more throughout the day.

0952 The business magazine, the Bookseller warns the flight cancellations could pose a problem for visitors to the international London Book Fair .

0942 Simon Calder, travel editor of the UK newspaper the Independent, says the airline Ukraine International is planning to resume flights at 1000 BST as they believe "the skies are safe". They have reportedly carried out a test flight and are happy with the results.

He adds: "I got a call from somebody, a very senior figure in the British travel industry - saying the only time aircraft have actually suffered is when they've basically flown right through a volcanic plume as the volcano was erupting."

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0935 In a series of tweets this morning, themaria says: "I should've just gone back to the U.S. from Paris while I still had the chance. Worst. Idea. Ever.

"And... Back home in Moscow. Only way out today was on 1st class seat for 3k -one way! Stuck till Wed, had 2 buy a whole new ticket

0920 Asia-Pacific airlines, including Qantas, Air China and Thai Airways announce they have been forced to cancel more European flights. Qantas group executive David Epstein says he is not yet sure when flights would definitely resume.

0912 Alex Bristol from air traffic control body Nats says the situation has become "slightly worse" and the latest information they have from the Met Office is that the volcanic cloud continues to change shape but will remain over the UK.

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0911 Steve Byrne, part of a five-piece Scottish folk band from Edinburgh, is stuck in Denmark after playing a tour there. He tells the BBC: "We've been haemorrhaging money in hotels, rental companies are trying to charge us £2,000 to hire a van for 36 hours, so we're now looking into buying a couple of cars to drive back in."

0906 The bodies of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife have been flown from Warsaw to Krakow under the plume of the ash cloud in preparation for their burial later. Many world leaders, including US President Barack Obama, have been unable to travel to the funeral because of the danger posed by volcanic ash.

0857 Crisis advisory company Lewis PR estimates the problems caused so far by the ash cloud has cost the European travel industry more than £1bn ($1.5bn). The company says the disruption could last for at least another two weeks.

Frank Gardner

0845 The BBC's Frank Gardner is stranded with his family in Kuala Lumpur. He says there is something of a Dunkirk spirit among the many stranded British passengers booking into hotels in the Malaysian capital.

He said despite the unexpected change to their plans, most are in good spirits and determined to enjoy some additional days' holiday, even if it is at their own expense. And some are making reservations for a further seven days to be on the safe side.

Malaysian airline staff have said, as it is an act of God, they are not obliged to help them until UK flights are cleared to resume.

Our correspondent says there is a marked difference between those who are stranded on company time and paying with corporate credit cards, and those holiday-makers who are now facing unexpected and open-ended costs.

0836 Historian Dan Snow is taking five boats from Dover to Calais to bring home British travellers stranded in France by the closure of UK airspace. He said the journey would be fast and "quite enjoyable".

"Ten people all clinging on for dear life, with no cabin, so they're exposed to the elements, and it's got inflatable sides with those outboard engines on the back," he said.

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0827British headteacher Cassandra Williams in Hong Kong e-mails: "None of us will be back to school in time! There are lots of children meant to be taking GCSEs and A levels and they are very worried about when they might be able to fly home"

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0825 Karen Abbot from Southampton e-mails: "I'm stuck in Singapore with my husband and daughter and am IDDM (Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus) and running out of medication. What provisions are the airlines making for this? None! We have experienced hotel prices increased by 100% and a complete shortage of rooms."

0822 Dutch airline KLM and German airline Luthansa have both carried out test flights and have so far reported no problems during the flights. The KLM Boeing 737 is currently being inspected for any possible damage.

0820 About 20 European countries have closed their airspace - with some, extending flight bans into Monday. An estimated three-quarters of flights, including transatlantic journeys, were cancelled on Saturday.

0815 Flight restrictions over much of UK airspace have been extended until at least 1900 BST as forecasters say the ash cloud could remain over the UK for several more days.



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