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Hundreds of Armenian nationals remain stranded at airports across Europe because of the huge cloud of volcanic ash hanging over the continent, Armenia’s civil aviation authority said on Tuesday.


According to the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, a total of 17 flights from Yerevan to several major European cities have been cancelled since an incessant stream of ash from an Icelandic volcano forced the closure of much of European airspace on April 15.

The Czech national airline CSA carried out on Monday the first flight to Armenia since the unprecedented disruption. Aram Marutian, the deputy head of the Civil Aviation Department, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that 140 mostly Armenian passengers arrived in Yerevan on board a CSA plane from Prague.

Iceland -- The path of a plane is seen over the top of an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, 20Apr2010
Marutian said another carrier, Austrian Airlines, will also likely resume its regular flight service between Vienna and Yerevan later on Tuesday. “We are working with the airline to make sure that they use a bigger aircraft so that we can increase the number of passengers and return everyone to Armenia as soon as possible,” he said.

In Marutian’s words, a total of some 750 Armenians are still unable to return home, while more than a 1,100 others have had to delay trips to Europe and the United States because of the crisis. About one third of them have handed back their air tickets to travel, he added.

The official also said that the volcanic eruption has not disrupted flight services with Russia and other former Soviet republics which account for most of air travel to and from Armenia.

Millions of people have been stranded across the globe since Europe began shutting down airspace six days ago. A gradual reopening of airports in northern and central Europe, which began on Monday, was called into question by new spurts of ash from the Eyjafjallajokull volcano reported on Tuesday. Authorities in Iceland said the volcanic activity there is still “considerable,” leading some countries, including Britain and Norway, to scrap plans to end their lockdown.
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