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Volcano eruption closes all airports

ALL commercial aviation across the UK was grounded as an ash cloud, blown into the air by the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajoekull, drifted southeast wards and entered the UK air space, on Thursday.

Flights across the country are grounded until at least 6am on Friday morning when the situation will be reviewed again.

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In Shetland, all Loganair flights were cancelled on Thursday and Sumburgh airport closed at 11.45am but remained on call for emergency flights.

There were no offshore flights from Scatsta airport, and inter-island flights from Tingwall were also grounded.

Loganair commercial director Jonathan Hinkles said: “As with other airlines operating in Scotland, Loganair has cancelled all flights throughout its network due to the safety risk posed by the volcanic ash being carried from Iceland by prevailing winds towards the UK.”

Passengers have been given the opportunity to re-book on other flights without any extra charge.

An island delegation destined for Edinburgh to negotiate government support for a council house building programme was grounded as a result of the cloud of volcanic ash.

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And the launch of the election manifesto of the Scottish LibDems, scheduled for Friday morning in Scalloway, also fell victim to the Icelandic eruption.

Meanwhile, several people in the islands said they had distinctly noticed the sulphurous smell of rotten eggs in the air during the morning hours.

The huge ash cloud was blown into the atmosphere on Tuesday when the volcano in the Eyjafjallajoekull area of south Iceland erupted for the second time in a month.

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Sandwick resident Joanne Jamieson said: “I noticed a smell in the house and wondered what it was. It was coming from the outside, so I opened the door. It was very strong, and I initially thought it was rotting seaweed.

“I looked down to the beach and actually looked up to see if the sky was falling in. I didn’t know what it was, and first thought it might be something local like a burst drain.

“Only when I got to school to drop my children off, I heard about the volcanic ash as parents were discussing the fact that the flights were off.”

Jane Matthews, from the same village said: “It smelt strongly like rotten eggs, but I didn’t put two and two together realising it was coming from Iceland. Initially I thought, maybe, it something to do with my young daughter, or the animals in the field.”

Director of public health in Shetland, Dr Sarah Taylor, said there was no immediate health risk associated with the ash cloud due to the distance between Shetland and Iceland.

She added that there were health concerns because planes were not flying and island residents were unable to attend pre-arranged hospital appointments in Aberdeen and elsewhere.

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“These are the things that are of concern to us and not the direct risk around the ash,” she said.

In response to people smelling sulphur, she said: “The cloud will be a combination of gases and particles. Sulphur related gases are part of what erupted. But that doesn’t have a health hazard in itself, certainly not in the concentrations we are talking about here.”

Meanwhile, a meeting with the Scottish housing minister Alex Neil will have to be rescheduled after local politicians and council officials were unable to make it to Edinburgh.

The delegation was meant to present a plan on how Shetland Islands Council proposes to deal with its £45 million housing debts as a precondition to be able to negotiate government grants to help realising an ambitious £20 million council house building programme.

The geological event also wrecked plans by the Scottish LibDems to launch their election manifesto on board the Swan, in Scalloway harbour.

The party had to cancel the event as Tavish Scott, Shetland MSP and leader of the Scottish LibDems, was unable to fly from Edinburgh back to Shetland.

A constituents’ surgery Mr Scott had planned for Friday has now been postponed until Monday from 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

 

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