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Volcanic Ash from Nabro Volcano Disrupts Air Travel

Nabro VolcanoFlights over east Africa were disrupted yesterday (Tuesday) as meteorologists monitored an ash cloud that was spewed from the Nabro volcano in Eritrea. The eruption was triggered by a series of earthquakes in the northeastern part of the East African Rift Valley on Sunday, June 12. A plume of ash was spewed 13.5km (8.4mi) into the sky and was moving northwest across Sudan and Egypt until it switched to a more eastward heading. Yesterday evening, the meteorological service in Israel said that the ash cloud looked like it would pass over them, but would potentially hit Iraq and Jordan.

According to Addis Ababa University associate geophysics professor Atalay Ayele, there aren’t any records of Nabro erupting in the past. No one knows if it has before, while the the nearby Dubbi volcano last erupted 150 years ago, he noted. Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre manager Philippe Husson said that the eruption of Nabro is ongoing in terms of water and gases, as the volcano is producing sulphur dioxide now. There isn’t anymore volcanic ash spewing from the volcano, he noted, which is good for airlines.

Due to the cloud of ash already in the air, airlines were made to cancel some of the flights in their schedule. Yesterday, Lufthansa cancelled flights to Asmara, Eritrea and Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia), as well as flights to Addis Ababa that were scheduled for Wednesday. The carrier said that it is closely monitoring the situation before it decides to cancel anymore services.

Egyptair says that the plume of ash is also affecting its flights to Asmara and Addis Ababa. Hussein Dabbas, the chief executive of Royal Jordanian Airlines, said that his carrier is closely watching the progress of the plume. The carrier’s flights haven’t been affected as of his statement, but he said that they have a contingency plan ready in case services needed to be suspended – particularly those to Khartoum.

Ethiopian Airlines says the ash has disrupted its services to Djibouti, Khartoum (the capital of Sudan) and domestic destinations in northern Ethiopia. The airline is advising its customers to check the status of their flights before travelling to the airport. Spokesman Getachew Tesfa said that the carrier was ready to operate as things get better, while the rest of the airline’s schedule is running normally.

Meanwhile, with the cloud of ash affecting air travel, this has also cut short US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s 3-nation tour of Africa. She arrived in Addis Ababa on Monday for an African Union address. However, officials in the US say that the decision to cut her trip short was made due to the ash cloud moving toward the city and not knowing how long she wouldn’t be able to travel if she stayed. She was due to leave on Monday.

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