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Ash rises from Icelandic volcano

posted 22 May 2011, 06:28 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 22 May 2011, 06:30 ]

Iceland's most active volcano erupted on Saturday (May 21) hurling a plume of ash and smoke far into the sky.

GRIMSVOTN VOLCANO, ICELAND (MAY 21, 2011) RUV - The eruption of Iceland's most active volcano is unlikely to cause a repeat of last year's major disruption to air traffic, an expert said, despite the island having to shut its main airport and maybe closing its airspace.

The Grimsvotn volcano burst into life on Saturday (May 21) in what experts said was a stronger eruption than its last outbreak in 2004. The plume from the volcano shot 20 km (12 miles) into the sky, forming a huge, bubbling mass which seeped above the clouds high over the North Atlantic island.

Scientists flew around the volcano on Saturday night and pictures of huge plumes of smoke and ash were recorded from on board their plane.

Experts have said it will probably not cause the same kind of disruption as when Eyjafjallajokull erupted last April, grounding European airlines for days, as its eruptions tend to be smaller and the particles from it less likely to disperse so far into the atmosphere.

Authorities halted flights then due to fears that dust and ash would get into aircraft engines and cause accidents after the cloud was blown into European air traffic lanes.

The Isavia civil aviation authority said it had decided to shut the island's main airport, which is about 30 miles from capital city Reykjavik.

Isavia on Saturday imposed a flight ban of 120 nautical miles around the area.

Grimsvotn lies under the Vatnajokull glacier in southeast Iceland, the largest glacier in Europe.

When it last erupted in 2004 transatlantic flights had to be re-routed south of Iceland, but no airports were closed.