Volcanic ash grounds flights across Northern Europe

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European air traffic from the U.K. to Scandinavia to the Netherlands has been disrupted by volcanic ash spreading from Iceland.

Tens of thousands of passengers have been stranded in one of the most disruptive events to hit air travel in years.

Eruption of the volacano beneath Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier has resulted in high-altitude ash clouds rolling toward Northern Europe. Minute particles of silicate in the ash can damage airplane engines.

Since 11:30 am U.K. time, there have been no departures from any British Airways-served airport, the airline said on its website. All flights have been suspended from all U.K. airports, as British aviation authorities have shut airspace.

All traffic to and from Oslo's airport was canceled until 2 a.m. on Friday. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport said it expects that air traffic to and from the Netherlands will "come to a complete standstill" after 7 p.m. Flights also have been grounded in Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

The Associated Press reports that authorities are saying it isn't clear when it will be safe to fly again. In one sobering prediction, a scientist in Iceland said the ejection of volcanic ash — and therefore disruptions in air travel — could continue for days or even weeks.

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