Shameful response

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It would be nice to start by saying: “Now that the dust has settled…” But it hasn’t, and it looks as though the cloud from the Icelandic volcano is going to be around for some time to come.

More than 300 airports in Europe have been closed and airlines reckon that it is costing them about £130 million a day.

The flight ban is also hitting produce growers in Africa. The BBC has reported that refrigerated stores at Nairobi airport in Kenya and on farms are completely full, and a huge amount of the fresh flowers and vegetables destined for Europe is in danger of perishing.

So it is no surprise that airlines have started questioning the European response to the cloud.

Astonishingly, there was no serious attempt to deal with this at an inter-governmental level for days after flights were grounded. The policy seemed to be: do nothing and hope the wind blows.

Yet, Giovanni Bisignani, chief executive of the International Air Transport Association can point to Mount St Helens eruption in the US in 1980. “We did not see large scale disruptions, because the decisions to open or close airspace were risk managed with no compromise on safety.”

Ministers are now starting to hold discussions, and I hope that by the time you read this a better system will be in place.

But Europe’s woeful response to this situation needs to be addressed. Volcanic eruptions are common enough occurrences in other parts of the world and life goes on. It’s shameful that it has been dealt with so badly here.

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