Even as the airspace over Europe remained closed for the fourth day running on Sunday, and thousands of air passengers remained stranded, experts expressed fears that the ash released by Iceland’s erupting volcano might continue to disrupt air operations for weeks and months.
<b1>Indian airline companies, however, resumed their flights to the United States by using alternative routes that bypassed Europe altogether.
As eruptions from the volcano continued to spew ash into the atmosphere, experts said only a heavy shower could bring them to a halt and enable airlines to resume operations.
The last time the crater, Ejyafjallajokull, erupted was in 1821, when it went on expelling lava for more than a year. There are also fears that another Icelandic volcano, Katla, said to be five times bigger, could become active as well.
“Our work suggests that eventually there will be either somewhat larger or more frequent eruptions in Iceland in coming decades,” Freysteinn Sigmundsson of the Nordic Volcanological Centre in Iceland told The Telegraph, London.
"While volcanic eruptions can be predicted, there is no way to predict how long they will continue. The eruption of Ejyafjallajokull had been predicted,” Professor D Chandrasekharam, former head of the department of earth sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, told Hindustan Times.
"While it is not know when this will end, even when it does, the plume of dust, ash and other particles will remain in the air depending on their size. The smaller the size, the longer they will float,” Chandrasekharam added.
Eurocontrol, the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, said it expected barely 4,000 flights to take off in European airspace on Sunday. “On a normal Sunday, there are 24,000,” it said.
It estimated that around 63,000 flights had been cancelled due to ash scare since Thursday. Air traffic control services for civil aircraft have now been shut down in around 30 European nations. Southern Europe, however, remains open.
Resuming its flights to the US — barring Washington — Air India said its planes would take the Polar route, flying over the uninhabited polar ice cap region. Jet Airways, which resumed operations to America and Canada on Saturday, is using Athens as the transit point.