LIKE CURRENT COVID-19, HOW AN ICELANDIC VOLCANO CAUSED CHAOS AROUND THE WORLD OF SPORTS

LIKE CURRENT COVID-19, HOW AN ICELANDIC VOLCANO CAUSED CHAOS AROUND THE WORLD OF SPORTS

Despite being a relatively small volcano, the ash cloud created by Eyjafjallajokull’s eruption caused the highest level of disruption to air travel since World War II.

From April 14, the volcano produced an estimated 250 million cubic metres of ash and small debris, which rose to a height of around 9km.

What turned a local problem into an international crisis, however, was that the volcano was situated directly under the jet stream, which was unusually stable at the time and blowing steadily south-easterly, pushing the ash cloud straight towards mainland Europe.

The initial human impact was felt in Iceland, with hundreds living near to the eruption site evacuated and farmland and livestock severely affected by ash.

But the main effects were felt in the aviation industry. As well as concerns over poor visibility, the glass-rich nature of the ash cloud, caused by a reaction between melting ice and lava, was potentially particularly damaging for aircraft engines, and there were widespread fears of crashes.

Huge amounts of European airspace was consequently shut down, with countries ranging from Belarus to Turkey, Finland and Ukraine all affected.

An estimated 10 million passengers were stranded, not only in Europe but around the world.

After an initial shutdown across northern Europe in April, there were further shutdowns in May affecting the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria and Germany.

The cost to the airline industry caused by 95,000 grounded flights was estimated to be £130million per day, with a total loss of around £1.1billion.

TUI reported losses of £5-6m per day during the airspace closure, while 13 other travel firms went bust.

Other areas of the economy hit by disruption to supply chains included the pharmaceutical and car-making industries. BMW, Nissan and Honda all suspended production on some models, while Asian electronics producers such as Samsung were unable to export large amounts of goods.

The Kenyan flower industry also lost millions per day, with a reported 400 tonnes of flowers destroyed as they were unable to be airshipped into the UK.

The ban on flights in the UK disrupted the general election campaign trail. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was among those affected, as he was stranded in Israel during his campaign tour.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles, Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and others were forced to miss the funeral of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, who had died in a plane crash.

The comedian and actor John Cleese was reported to have spent roughly £3,300 on a taxi journey from Oslo to Brussels after a flight was cancelled. His 900-mile journey lasted around 15 hours, and passed through Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Sir David Attenborough and his crew, who had reached the North Pole to film the upcoming BBC nature series The Frozen Planet, were temporarily stranded in the Norwegian Arctic territory of Svalbard.

Daily Mail

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