New ash cloud halted flights up north

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Norwegian aviation authorities closed air space in northern Norway from 2pm on Friday, because new clouds of ash were moving in from an Icelandic volcano. Airline Widerøe said it was forced to cancel around 20 flights.

Norway’s Luftfartstilsynet put “restrictions” on air space over Andøya, Narvik, Bardufoss, Stokmarknes, Evenes and Tromsø.  Airports serving those areas were to close from 2pm until 8pm Friday evening, as the ash cloud stretched from Helgeland to Tromsø. Air space reopened, however, around 6pm as the cloud dispersed.

“We’re initially closing air space over northern Nordland and parts of Troms counties,” Bjørn Erlandsen of Luftfartstilsynet told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He said it was “incredibly difficult” to predict what might happen later in the evening or on Saturday, because of the unpredictability of air currents, winds and the volcano itself.

Norway’s meteorological institute reported that ash clouds from Iceland were moving quickly towards northern Norway and may also move south. That could force closure of air space over the entire country, bad news for everyone planning to fly out during the upcoming three-day Pinse holiday weekend.

There also are thousands of foreign visitors in Norway at present and more expected, in connection with the Eurovision Song Contest, so organizers may need to cope with disruption as well. Norway was among the countries hit the hardest by ash clouds in April and early May.

Air ambulance service was suspended earlier on Friday but was allowed to resume flights at certain heights and zones, as were police and search and rescue aircraft.

Airline Widerøe, however, had to cancel 20 of its 340 departures. Norwegian Air flights to and from Tromsø and Evenes were affected as well, and all airlines were urging passengers to stay in touch to see whether their flights were delayed or cancelled.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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