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Volcanic ash will make travel bans over Europe worst ever

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Increasing ash and grit from the Icelandic volcano will create the worst travel restrictions ever seen over Europe, scientists warn. The problem: The Icelandic volcano that initially blew its top is below a glacial ice cap, which cools the magma — igniting explosions and sending potentially catastrophic streams of grit into the path of plane engines.

“The activity has been quite vigorous overnight, causing the eruption column to grow,” Icelandic geologist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson told The Associated Press. “It’s the magma mixing with the water that creates the explosivity. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.”

A grit cloud continues to hover over some of western Europe, stranding travelers, as it moves south and southeast. According to the experts, it will likely get worse before it gets better.

We’re talking historical proportions, they said.

In just the past few days, U.S. airlines canceled 280 of more than 330 trans-Atlantic flights a day.

Besides the countless missed family affairs and connections, the plume is playing havoc with world leaders’ plans to attend Sunday’s state funeral for Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, Maria,  in Krakow.

Although President Obama and his counterparts from Russia and Germany still plan to attend, from India, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and Pakistan have pulled out.

Airspace over Britain, Germany and France remains closed at least through tomorrow. Northern Italy’s is closed until late this morning. Spain’s ban is indefinite, as are those over Denmark and Finland.

According to the AP, Southern Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull (ay-yah-FYAH’-plah-yer-kuh-duhl) volcano began erupting for the second time in a month on Wednesday, sending ash several miles into the air. Winds pushed the plume south and east across Britain, Ireland, Scandinavia and into the heart of Europe.

Authorities told people in the area with respiratory problems to stay indoors, and advised everyone to wear masks and protective goggles outside.

In Iceland, a nation of 320,000, torrents of water reportedly have washed away chunks of ice the size of small houses. More floods are expected.

How long could it last?

In 1821, the same volcano erupted for more than a year.

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