Written by Tom Peake, CNN
A volcanic ash cloud traveling from Iceland has closed the airport in the popular island destination of La Palma in the Canary Islands overnight.
Forecasters say the ash will be persistent and persistent, and will continue to spread northeast, impacting mainland Spain as well as the Canary Islands.
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The airport was opened at 8 a.m. local time (10 a.m. ET) Saturday but closed at 3 p.m. local time (5 p.m. ET) as officials fear the ash could damage aircraft. Emergency operations teams are standing by with extra rescue vehicles, medical kit and supplies.
At a press conference, Xavier Retiero, airport manager for La Palma, told the Associated Press that in his 16 years on the job, he had never experienced such a volcanic ash cloud.
One plane had evacuated without incident before the closure, and passengers were transferred to the main airport on the nearby island of Gran Canaria, which is still operational.
Paul Combe, a meteorologist at the UK Met Office, told the Associated Press that the storm originating in Iceland was intensifying as the day went on. “The forecast is for the ash to keep moving northeast. It could cause problems in Europe through Sunday and into Monday and probably remain for some time, at least until we get an ash-free day on Wednesday.”
Don’t panic. These five volcanic eruptions in history are far less dramatic than the recent eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.