U.K. Sending Warships to Rescue Stranded Airline Passengers
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and assault ship HMS Ocean would be sent across the English Channel. A third ship is being spent to Spain to pick up soldiers trying to get back to Britain after a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
"I expect Ocean to be in the Channel today. I expect the Ark Royal to moving towards the Channel later," Brown said after a meeting of the government's emergency committee, known as COBRA.
He says Britain was speaking with Spanish authorities to see whether Britons stranded overseas could be flown there and then taken home by boat or bus.
Brown said the ash cloud had created "the biggest challenge to our aviation transport network for many years."
The International Air Transport Association says the airport lockdowns are costing the aviation industry at least $200 million a day. Millions of travelers have been stuck since the volcano under Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier begun erupting Wednesday for the second time in a month.
Air space in countries including Britain, France, Germany, and the Netherlands -- home to Europe's largest airports -- have been closed for days.
Meeting in Paris, the IATA expressed its "dissatisfaction with how governments have managed it, with no risk assessment, no consultation, no coordination, and no leadership" and called for greater urgency in reopening Europe's skies.
The aviation industry sharply criticized European governments on Monday for their handling of airport closures, saying there was "no coordination and no leadership" in the volcanic ash crisis that shut down European airports for a fifth straight day.
Some smaller airports reopened, and European officials had hoped that flights could return to about 50 percent of normal on Monday if the skies were clearing.