Fresh volcano ash cloud prompts fears for hospital patients

Health chiefs instigate travel plans


FEARS the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud may strike the north of Scotland again have forced health chiefs to put contingency plans in place.

Last month, the plume of ash from the Eyjafjallajokull eruption paralysed the skies across Europe creating chaos for thousands of travellers.

Planes were grounded to avoid engines getting clogged by the debris-contaminated cloud. The eruption abated last week and the cloud stayed around Iceland.

But now the wind is pushing the cloud back towards Britain creating fears of travel disruptions.

The Met Office warned that the plume is rising into the atmosphere towards the UK.

A spokesman said: “Recent reports are that the ash is darker or denser than on recent days but concentrations are uncertain at present. The plume is currently spreading south-eastwards from the volcano, away from Iceland.”

Satellite weather maps indicate a huge blanket of ash cloud is lying over the sea, west of the Hebrides and down past Ireland this morning.

Westerly winds are expected later on which would push the ash cloud towards the coast as it did during the air chaos last month.

Some 135 Western Isles patients had hospital appointments cancelled because consultants were stranded by grounded planes.

John Angus Mackay, chairman of Western Isles NHS, said: “We could be facing a similar situation depending on the way the wind blows.”

The body’s chief executive Gordon Jamieson said: “We may have further disruption to patients and visiting medical staff who largely rely on air travel.

He said that “efforts are being made to get people up by ferry and road,” but warned sea trips would seriously erode into visiting consultants’ working weeks.