Eyjafjallajokull or simply, Eyjafjoll, is probably the most famous lump of rock in the world right now, having decimated the European aviation industry with thick clouds of volcanic ash and dust.
The volcano, which lies on a glaciated mountain range in southern Iceland, has been erupting intermittently since the middle of March, but the crater remained relatively unknown until the 14th April, when the wind carried the mountain’s emissions south towards Britain and northwestern Europe.
Since then, an estimated 150,000 British nationals have been stranded abroad, 70,000 of whom are in the Americas, as airlines across the continent were forced to cancel all scheduled and charter flights. Eyjafjoll’s ash cloud now reaches deep into Russia, after five days of violent eruptions.
Whilst the EU organises an emergency meeting, Gordon Brown has brokered a deal with the Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Zapatero, to allow planes carrying British citizens to land at the country’s airports. Travellers will then be escorted to three Royal Navy warships, including HMS Ark Royal, and returned to England.
Eyjafjoll’s eruptions have shown signs of weakening over the past few hours, but the Met Office continues to warn of southerly winds blowing dust over the country. Test flights in the south of England have arrived safely, however, prompting anger at National Air Traffic Services (NATS), which continues to impose a no-fly zone over the UK.
Up to 63,000 flights have been axed since Thursday, affecting 7m passengers. Airline bosses have warned that the bar on flights is costing the industry £130m a day, a severe blow for struggling carriers such as British Airways.
If you are concerned about your flight, please contact your airline in the first instance.