Volcanic Ash Cloud Edges Toward Israel

Transportation minister orders emergency planning as Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul erupts for a second time, sending volcanic debris into the Eastern Mediterranean.

A renewed column of ash rises from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano, May 8, 2010

A huge cloud of ash from an Icelandic volcano that has caused travel chaos across Europe looks set to reach Israel on Monday night, the Israel Meteorological Office has warned.

Transportation Minister Israel Katz on Monday ordered ministry staff to begin emergency preparations as the cloud edged into the Eastern Mediterranean at a height of around 20,000 feet.

Driven by winds from the northeast, the cloud was on course to engulf Cyprus early on Monday afternoon and reach Israel late Monday night.

Katz ordered the head of the Civil Aviation Authority, Giora Rom, to hold planning talks with the Israel Airports Authority, the Meteorological Office and European aviation bodies.

Following the meeting, Rom said that skies over Israel would stay open for the meantime, adding that the relatively low altitude of the cloud - some 15,000 feet below the cruising altitude of commercial jets - may allow Israel to avoid closing airports.

Last month thousands of flights were grounded and dozens of airports shut as Mount Eyjafjallajokull erupted, spewing out millions of cubic meters of ash.

Scheduled air traffic has since resumed, but Europe this week saw another wave of airport closures as the volcano became active for a second time.

Aviation experts fear volcanic ash would damage the jet engines of aircraft in flight, potentially causing crashes.