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Europe faces fresh flight disruptions from ash cloud

Air traffic over southern Europe faced more disruption today from an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano, even as clearer skies in some areas let flights resume after a weekend of cancellations.

world Updated: May 10, 2010 23:40 IST

Air traffic over southern Europe faced more disruption today from an ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano, even as clearer skies in some areas let flights resume after a weekend of cancellations.

European air traffic agency Eurocontrol warned that by today afternoon "areas of higher ash concentration could move in a north-easterly direction from the Atlantic into the Iberian Peninsula," leading to fresh flight disruption in Spain and Portugal.

About 500 fewer flights would take to the skies in Europe today because of the ash cloud, which would also force transatlantic planes to fly lengthy detours, Brussels-based Eurocontrol said in a statement.

Spain was forced to impose overflight restrictions on air traffic between 20,000 and 35,000 feet (6,000 metres and 10,600 metres) from 1930 IST until at least 2330 IST, the country's aviation authority, AENA, said in a statement.

The overflight restrictions came after Spain earlier reported the reopening of all 19 airports that had been affected by the ash cloud over the weekend.

In neighbouring Portugal, airports at Lisbon and the northern city of Oporto reopened early today but by 1630 IST some 200 flights had been suspended, civil aviation authority NAV said.

All flights to the Azores and Madeira remained grounded from the weekend.

Lisbon airport is the arrival point for Pope Benedict XVI who is due to begin tomorrow a four-day visit to the country.

Portuguese Catholic Church officials have said that if necessary there is a "Plan B" to ensure the pontiff's visit goes ahead as planned.

The eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano in Iceland, which caused travel chaos worldwide with airspaces closed over many European nations for a week last month, was again causing delays due to "significant re-routings" of transatlantic flights, Eurocontrol said.