Tag Archives: Scotland

Iceland volcano ash causes fresh air travel chaos

Aviation chiefs predicted Thursday that the drifting dust could throw travel plans into disarray for a further two days, after flights were banned over more than 10 European countries.

Thousands of passengers from Hong Kong to Dublin were stranded when aviation chiefs decided it was too risky to allow planes to fly through the cloud of ash, which is upwards of 20,000 feet (6,000 metres) above the earth’s surface.

Although not visible from the ground, volcanic ash can be highly dangerous for aircraft, clogging up the engines and reducing visibility, experts say.

Up to 5,000 flights were affected by the flight bans Thursday, said Eurocontrol, the agency that coordinates flights in Europe.

Flights from all over the world, including Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dubai, Paris and Athens, were affected by the cancellations in northern Europe.

The ash from the volcano under Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull glacier blew southeast after Wednesday’s eruption towards Scotland and Norway, before covering England and Scandinavia, according to the London-based Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

The drifting cloud also closed airspace in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the north of France, parts of northern Germany and part of northern Poland.

Passengers’ travel nightmare was far from over Friday, with airspace closures still in force and the European air traffic control group Eurocontrol predicting further travel chaos.

The disruption “could last two days,” spokesman Kyla Evans told AFP from the agency’s Brussel’s headquarters.

Flights between North America and Europe also faced major disruption, with half of all services expected to be cancelled Friday, according to Eurocontrol.

Farmer tells of Iceland volcano blast There are an average of 600 flights between Europe and North America a day, it said.

Britain — which closed its airspace at 1100 GMT Thursday — said the ban would stay in force until 1800 GMT Friday for most flights in its airspace.

Belgian airspace is to remain closed Friday, authorities confirmed, while Air France said its flights in and out of Paris would not run.

In Scotland, health authorities warned people to beware of possible health problems from volcano ash falling to the ground.

Norway was the first to ground its flights on Wednesday evening, followed by Scotland overnight into Thursday and then London, before air traffic controllers announced no flights could go through British and Irish airspace.

Finland closed its northern airspace an hour later, followed by Denmark and Sweden.

Paris’s two main airports and more than a dozen others in the north of France were closed Thursday, aviation officials said.

A total of 466 flights between Spain and European destinations were cancelled Thursday because of the ash by 1530 GMT, Spain’s AENA aviation authority said.

Icelandic airports, however, reported no problems.

“The wind is blowing the ash to the east,” Hjordis Gudmundsdottir of the Icelandic Airport Authority told AFP, adding: “It’s amazing really.”

About 300 flights in and out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports had already been cancelled before the airspace was closed, leaving many of the 260,000 passengers who typically use the airports each day with nowhere to go.

“Basically we’re stranded here, and a lot of people are angry. I realise it’s an act of God — however it would be nice to have another exit strategy,” said Isobel Connolly, who was due to fly from Heathrow to Ireland.

In 1982, British Airways and Singapore Airways jumbo jets lost their engines when they flew into an ash cloud over Indonesia, while a KLM flight had a similar experience in 1989 over Alaska.

“On each occasion, the plane fell to within a few thousand feet of the ground before it was possible to restart the engines,” Rothery said.

William Hague to urge reform on visit to Burma

William Hague is visiting Burma, the first British foreign secretary to do so for more than 50 years.

He is expected to use meetings with the country’s leaders to press for the release of more political prisoners.
His visit is the latest in a series by top diplomats from around the world, amid steps towards reform by the new government in Burma.
Burma held its first elections in 20 years in 2010, replacing military rule with a nominally civilian government.
Since then the new administration has freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and begun a process of dialogue.
Last month she formally registered her National League for Democracy as a political party, after boycotting the 2010 polls because of electoral laws that prevented her taking part.

In December US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma, in what was seen as an endorsement of the reform process – although Western observers say much more is needed.
‘Political freedom’

Speaking ahead of his arrival in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, William Hague welcomed the “encouraging” steps taken by the government.

“I am visiting the country to encourage the Burmese government to continue on its path of reform, and to gauge what more Britain can do to support this process,” he said.

Mr Hague is the first British foreign secretary to visit Burma since 1955.

In Nay Pyi Taw he will hold talks with President Thein Sein, a former top general who stepped down to contest the polls as a civilian.

He will then travel to Rangoon, Burma’s commercial capital, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, representatives of some of Burma’s ethnic minority groups and dissidents.

Ms Suu Kyi’s party plans to contest by-elections in April that could see her elected to parliament. Her party secured a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

The new government has released some political prisoners in recent months but between 600 and 1,000 journalists, dissidents and monks who led anti-government protests in 2007 are thought to remain behind bars.

Mr Hague said he wanted to see more progress on reform.

“Further steps are needed that will have a lasting impact on human rights and political freedom in Burma,” he said.

“In particular, we hope to see the release of all remaining political prisoners, free and fair by-elections, humanitarian access to people in conflict areas, and credible steps towards national reconciliation.”

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Iran nuclear crisis: Sanctions ‘beginning to bite’

Iran nuclear crisis: Sanctions ‘beginning to bite’

The US has said threats by Iran to restrict Gulf shipping in the event of further sanctions shows international pressure is having an effect.

The State Department said sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme were starting to bite and that Iran was trying to create a distraction.

Iran has conducted 10 days of exercises near the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz, test-firing several missiles.

Its currency is at a record low, but it has denied sanctions are to blame.

The UN Security Council has already passed four rounds of sanctions against Iran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

Highly enriched uranium can be processed into nuclear weapons, but Iran denies Western charges that it is trying to develop them.

Tehran says its programme is peaceful – it needs nuclear technology to generate electricity to meet growing domestic demand.The US has also sanctioned dozens of Iranian government agencies, officials and businesses over the nuclear programme.

The government in Tehran has dismissed the latest measures announced in the wake of a critical IAEA report in November.

US President Barack Obama signed into law the US bill targeting Iran’s central bank on Saturday. It enters into force in six months’ time.

Since then, however, the Iranian national currency, the rial, has lost about 12% of its value – trading at about 17,200-18,000 rials to $1.

Earlier on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe called for “stricter sanctions” and urged EU countries to follow the US in freezing Iranian central bank assets and imposing an embargo on oil exports.
‘Mock’ exercises

Speaking to journalists, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland said Tehran was feeling increasingly isolated because of the sanctions.

“Frankly we see these threats from Tehran as just increasing evidence that the international pressure is beginning to bite there and that they are feeling increasingly isolated and they are trying to divert the attention of their own public from the difficulties inside Iran, including the economic difficulties as a result of the sanctions,” she said.

Meanwhile Pentagon spokesman George Little responded to Iranian warnings to keep an aircraft carrier out of the Gulf, saying the Navy was operating within international law and had no plans to pull warships out of the region.Iran has been holding a series of naval exercises in the Gulf, and on Monday

said it had successfully test-fired a surface-to-sea Qader cruise missile, a shorter range Nasr and later, a surface-to-surface Nour missile.

A medium-range surface-to-air missile was successfully launched on Sunday, Iranian media reported.

Iran has conducted 10 days of exercises near the Strait of Hormuz, through which 20% of the world’s traded oil passes.

Tehran said on Monday that “mock” exercises on shutting the strait had been carried out, although there was no intention of closing it.

The BBC’s Iran correspondent James Reynolds says Iran is using the exercises to try to show that it owns the Gulf and has the military capability to defend against any threat to its dominance.

But, says our correspondent, few believe Iran would carry out its threat to shut the Strait of Hormuz as to do so would be considered too economically, politically and possibly militarily damaging for Tehran.

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