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    Aug 25, 2014

    Airlines on edge over Iceland volcano


    I CELAND retracted an announcement on Saturday that one of the island's largest volcanoes had erupted as the authorities monitored intensifying earthquakes at the sub-glacial caldera.

    "A team of scientists flew over the area yesterday and that revealed that there wasn't an eruption taking place or any floods coming from the glacier," Urdur Gunnarsdottir, a spokesman for the Civil Protection Agency, said yesterday.

    "However, there's a lot of seismic activity in the glacier despite there being no visible signs of an eruption."

    The authorities continued to monitor quakes at the Bardarbunga volcano, which is located underneath Vatnajokull, Europe's largest glacier.

    The Icelandic Met Office still has in place a "red" aviation warning, which means that an "eruption is imminent or in progress - significant emission of ash into atmosphere likely."

    Airspace above what was then believed to be the eruption was closed. A Virgin Atlantic flight was rerouted away from the volcano as a "precautionary measure", and other airlines were on alert.

    "Right now, airlines are like an expectant father in a maternity ward's waiting room," said Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group, a travel-industry consulting firm in San Francisco.

    Warnings of an eruption put airlines on alert amid concerns they may face a repeat of the 2010 disruptions, when a cloud from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano forced carriers to cancel more than 100,000 flights and caused about US$1.7 billion (S$2.1 billion) in lost revenue.

    Ash is a danger to jets because the glass-like particles can damage engines.

    Hundreds of earthquakes have been measured at the volcano since midnight, according to the Met Office.

    "Probably, earthquakes near the Bardarbunga caldera are a consequence of adjustment to changes in pressure because of the flow of magma from under the caldera into the dike which stretches to Dyngjujokull, more than 25km away," the Met Office said in a statement.