Eritrean volcano still erupting, some flights cancelled

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 14, 2011 11:09 AM
Eritrean volcano still erupting, some flights cancelled

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A volcano in Eritrea erupted for a third day on Tuesday but with reduced intensity, its ash cloud spreading out over Sudan and toward Saudi Arabia and forcing the cancellation of some regional flights.

The Nabro volcano began belching plumes of ash at about midnight on Sunday after a string of earthquakes. Scientists initially wrongly identified the source of the eruption in the region close to the Ethiopian border as the nearby Dubbi volcano.

Dubai's Emirates airline said it was cancelling its flight transiting through the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday due to airspace restrictions around Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Airlines officials told Reuters they had canceled flights to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, neighboring Djibouti, as well as several domestic flights to Ethiopia's north.

Kenya Airways said it had canceled a flight from Addis Ababa to Djibouti but that otherwise all its flights were operating as usual.

"The ash's direction and its intensity were very high on Sunday, but this morning the Modis (monitoring) satellite shows a weakening," said Atalay Arefe, natural sciences professor at Addis Ababa University.

Satellite images on the France-based Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre's (VAAC) website showed the cloud heading toward Saudi Arabia.

Not known to have previously erupted, Nabro burst into life after a string of earthquakes, the biggest of which measured 5.7, according to the U.S. Geographical Survey. VAAC said the initial eruption threw an ash cloud 13.5 km (8.4 miles) high.

The online Earthquake-Report also said the intensity of the eruptions appeared to be subsiding.

"Based on the data from VAAC, we can clearly see that the eruption is winding down. There is some remaining activity as ash clouds are still (being) blown in the atmosphere (up to) an altitude of 20,000 feet," Earthquake-Report said.

Authorities in Ethiopia and Eritrea reported no casualties around the volcano. It was hard to verify these reports because of the difficulty accessing the arid region.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton cut short her stay in Africa by a day on Monday because the ash cloud risked leaving her stranded.

(Additional reporting by Tsefa-alem Tekle in Mekelle and Praveen Menon in Dubai; Editing by Richard Lough)