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Flights resume in Europe, but volcano fallout remains

| April 21, 2010 9:00 PM

LONDON (AP) - Europe's busiest airport reopened Tuesday as air traffic across the continent lurched back to life. But the gridlock created by Iceland's volcanic ash plume was far from over: Officials said it would be weeks before all stranded travelers could be brought home.

Passengers wept with relief as flights took off from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, Amsterdam and elsewhere. A jetliner from Vancouver, British Columbia, was the first to land at London's Heathrow airport, the continent's busiest, since the volcano erupted last week.

British Airways said it expected about two dozen flights from the United States, Africa and Asia to land by early Wednesday.

Travelers cheered as the first European flights took off.

The Eurocontrol air traffic agency said it expected just under half of the 27,500 flights over Europe to go ahead Tuesday, a marked improvement over the last few days. The agency predicted close to normal takeoffs by Friday.

It was the first day since the April 14 eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano - dormant for nearly 200 years - that travelers were given a reason for hope.

The volcano that prompted the turmoil continued to rumble, and tremors could be heard and felt as far as 15 miles from the crater.

Land and water at farms in the ash zone have suffered since the volcano's eruption, with normally green pastures turned black and hard by the ash.

Vigtus Andresson said grazing land and water on his farm near the town of Hvolsvollur were contaminated, making it necessary to evacuate many of the horses and sheep he raises there. He said he also must slaughter some of his 29 horses because there is no place for them to go.

Scientists were worried the eruption could trigger an even larger eruption at the nearby Katla volcano, which sits on the massive Myrdalsjokull icecap. Its last major eruption was in 1918.

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