London Airports were forced to close

Volcanic ash forces Heathrow, Gatwick to close Monday



London, England (CNN) — London’s two major airports were
preparing to close late Sunday as a cloud of ash from a volcano in
Iceland moved east into England, British air authorities said.

All
flights into and out of Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been
canceled for a six-hour period beginning early Monday, airport officials
said.

The affected flights are those scheduled between 1 a.m. (8
p.m. Sunday ET) and 7 a.m. (2 a.m. ET).

The Monday cancellations
were the latest in a round of weekend closures of airports in England
and Ireland.

Birmingham, Norwich Manchester and Liverpool
airports were closed on Sunday evening, controllers announced.

In
addition, Dublin’s airport closed overnight, the Irish Aviation
Authority said Sunday, and will remain closed until at least 9 a.m. (4
a.m.) Monday. International flights through Irish airspace will not be
affected, it said.

Waterford airport was set to close at 11 p.m.
(6 p.m.) and four other Irish airports remain closed. Shannon, Cork and
Kerry airports are open.

Flights were also stopped at all
airports in Northern Ireland, as well as the British airports at
Ronaldsway, Prestwick, Carlisle, Doncaster, Humberside, Leeds Bradford
and East Midlands.

Some Scottish island airports also shut down,
including Campbeltown, Islay and Barra, the air traffic control agency
NATS announced. And if the volcano continues to erupt at current levels
and weather conditions prevail, air travel in Britain could be disrupted
between Sunday and Tuesday.

"The government is carefully
monitoring this situation and the safety of passengers will remain our
paramount concern," said Philip Hammond, transport secretary.

The
department said predictions remain fluid, urging passengers to check
with
airlines before taking any action. British
Airways said it would notify passengers of potential disruptions on its
website.

"There is a distinct possibility of some disruption from
the ash cloud over the southeast of England, but it is too early to
tell if this will extend as far as Heathrow or Gatwick yet," a BA
spokesman told CNN.

Volcanic ash had forced the closing of
Iceland’s main airport Friday but it reopened at midnight and operated
normally on Saturday.

Earlier in the week, traffic was shut down
in airports from central Spain to the Canary Islands off the coast of
Africa.

The problems began in mid-April, when the volcano beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier
in southern Iceland erupted and sent a cloud of ash into the atmosphere,
disrupting international travel for several days.

There’s no way
to know how long the volcano will continue spewing ash into the air,
Georgia Tech scientist Josef Dufek told CNN.

"It could go on
another year," he said, noting that an eruption lasted that long in
1820.

Volcanic ash can be a serious hazard to aircraft, reducing
visibility, damaging flight controls and ultimately causing jet engines
to fail.

British ministers agreed Saturday that
five-day ash-prediction charts would now be made available to airlines,
other transport providers and the public on the Met Office website.
Previously, only 18-hour forecasts had been available.

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