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Ethiopian Airlines Flights Disrupted by Volcanic Ash Cloud

Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise, the state-owned carrier, said some of its flights had been disrupted by an ash cloud from a volcanic eruption in neighboring Eritrea.

Routes to northern Ethiopia, neighboring Djibouti and the Sudanese capital of Khartoum have been affected, the Addis Ababa-based airline said in an e-mailed statement today. The company urged travelers to check the status of their flights before embarking on their journey.

“We are closely monitoring” the situation, Getachew Tesfa, a spokesman for the airline, said by phone today. “As things get better we are ready to operate. All other flights are operating.”

Eritrea’s Nabro volcano erupted on June 12, spewing an ash cloud about 13.5 kilometers (8.4 miles) into the atmosphere, Philippe Husson, a manager at the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Toulouse, France, said in a phone interview. After initially projecting volcanic ash for about 36 hours, the volcano is now producing sulphur dioxide and water, he said.

Flights from Frankfurt, Germany to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa have been canceled, according to the website of Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

Ongoing Eruption

“The eruption is ongoing in terms of gases and water, but there is no more volcanic ash, which is a hazard for aviation,” Husson said.

No records exist of Nabro erupting before, according to Atalay Ayele, associate geophysics professor at Addis Ababa University.

“Nobody knows if it has erupted” previously, he said in a phone interview. The nearby Dubbi volcano last erupted in 1861, Atalay said.

The eruption cut short a two-day visit to Ethiopia by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who left the Horn of Africa yesterday “to avoid being unable to travel for an indeterminate period of time,” the State Department said in an e-mail.

Eritrea, a nation of about 6 million people, is about the size of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

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