Airlines watching East Africa volcanic ash cloud

June 13, 2011 - 12:44 PM
Eritrea Volcano

In this photo made available by NASA, a plume of smoke from an erupting volcano in southern Eritrea, seen at top center, is carried by winds blowing across northern Ethiopia, Monday, June 13, 2011. Airlines that travel through East Africa are keeping an eye on ash cloud after a volcano eruption in the tiny country of Eritrea. (AP Photo/NASA/GSFC, MODIS RAPID RESPONSE) MANDATORY CREDIT

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Airlines that travel through East Africa said Monday they are keeping an eye on an ash cloud after a volcano eruption in the Horn of Africa nation of Eritrea, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the eruption is forcing her to cut short a three-nation African tour.

Clinton was to have spent Monday night in Ethiopia's capital but will now leave immediately because the ash cloud from Monday's explosion in Eritrea is heading toward the city.

U.S. officials said the airport at Addis Ababa was to be closed. That meant Clinton faced being stranded if she had proceeded with her planned meetings in Ethiopia on Tuesday.

Spokesman Getachew Tesfa said Ethiopian Airlines is closely watching the cloud with the help of weather experts.

Germany's Lufthansa airline is also watching. Spokesman Marco Dall'Asta said flights from Frankfurt to the capitals of Ethiopia and Eritrea may be affected by the volcano.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, which advises the aviation industry about volcano eruptions, said Eritrea's Dubbi volcano began erupting early Monday. Eritrea borders Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. It has a population of about 5 million people.