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German airports reopen as ash cloud dissipates

Air traffic has resumed over Germany after the threat from volcanic ash forced airlines to cancel flights earlier today. Meanwhile, the Irish Aviation Authority says there will be no impact on Irish airspace for at least the next 48 hours.

Image: Passengers stand in front of the announcement panels as all flights are canceled at Tegel Airport in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 25, 2011.

A CLOUD OF volcanic ash from Iceland that had forced airport closures in northern Germany blew further north and east on Wednesday afternoon, allowing air traffic to resume – as experts announced the eruption appeared be winding down.

European air traffic controllers said they expected about 700 flights to be canceled on Wednesday, but Eurocontrol added that activity from Iceland’s Grimsvotn volcano has declined sharply and that traffic in European airspace could return to normal Thursday.

“There were very few eruptions by the volcano over the last six to 12 hours so the volcano is in a reasonably calm state at the moment,” said Brian Flynn, head of network operations for Eurocontrol. “Assuming that continues, we would expect that the European aviation would be able to return to almost a normal situation within the next 24 hours.”

Volcano experts in Iceland said the eruption appeared to be tapering off. Observers at the crater were reporting only steam, said Pall Einarsson, from the University of Iceland. The BBC quotes the German air traffic control agency as saying that the ash level was “no longer critical”.

“The worst is over,” said Icelandic Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir in a statement, after touring the region around Grimsvotn on Tuesday.

“Our geoscientists say that the eruption is waning day by day and that the problems arising in our neighboring countries as a result of volcanic ash should be resolved quickly,” Sigurdardottir said.

Ash from the volcano forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights over Britain on Tuesday as winds blew the ash over Scotland, but British airspace was clear on Wednesday.

German air traffic control banned all takeoffs and landings at airports in Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg and Luebeck for several hours early Wednesday, causing hundreds of flights to be cancelled.

Eurocontrol said the ash has reached parts of Russia, but has not affected air traffic there. Transpolar flights through the region were being diverted around the affected area, but were flying as scheduled.

Meanwhile, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) confirmed this afternoon that there will be no impact on Irish airspace for at least the next 48 hours.

Additional reporting by the AP

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