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Volcanic ash closes Irish airports

Volcanic ash closes Irish airports
An ash plume from IcelandÕs Eyjafjallajškull Volcano is seen in this NASA satellite image from April 15, 2010. The eruption sent a plume of ash and steam across the North Atlantic forcing the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, and Scandinavia to close airspace over their countries. UPI/NASA | License Photo

SHANNON, Ireland, May 7 (UPI) -- Ash drifting from an Icelandic volcano forced airports in Ireland to close for a fourth day Friday, disrupting plans for thousands of air travelers.

Airports in Shannon, Sligo, Knock, Galway, Donegal and Kerry were temporarily closed because of a huge ash cloud drifting from recent activity in Eyjafjallajoekull volcano, CNN reported.

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"The restrictions are required as the increased level of recent volcanic activity has created a massive ash cloud stretching 1,000 miles long and 700 miles wide," the Irish Aviation Authority said.

Northerly winds were keeping most of the ash cloud over the Atlantic Ocean, the IAA statement said, but the size of the cloud has increased and "is encroaching on Irish airspace along the west coast of Ireland."

Airports in Ireland, Northern Ireland and western Scotland were closed earlier this week because of the ash. Last month, ash from the volcanic eruption disrupted European air travel for six days.

Eurocontrol, Europe's air traffic management agency, said the ash accumulation poses a new navigational obstacle because the cloud is climbing to 35,000 feet into the typical cruising altitude of transatlantic aircraft, The Daily Telegraph reported. Until recently, the ash was below 20,000 feet.

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Eurocontrol said Thursday it would reroute flights between Europe and North America to avoid flying over the ash cloud off Ireland's west coast.

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