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Volcanic ash cloud: Where is it now - May 18?

The volcanic ash cloud from Iceland dissipated today and a British Airways labor strike was canceled, allowing Europe's airports to return to near-normal operations. But the British Met Office is taking fire for its volcanic ash cloud forecasts.

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At winds' will

While the ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano is gone for now, Mr. Hammond warned that unfavorable winds could push it back into European airspace.

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"The problem has been that we have been having long periods where winds have come from the northwest and this has blown the ash over the British Isles," he said.

"As we saw over the weekend, winds can and do change, and the ash cloud can come back at any time," a spokeswoman for American Airlines told USA Today.

In its May 17 update (pdf), the Icelandic Meteorological Office and Institute of Earth Sciences said: "The volcanic activity is explosive, but there are indications that it has somewhat lessened since the maximum on 13 May. Considerable ashfall is in the neighbouring communities and is expected to continue. Fluctuations in the strength of the eruption and in ashfall can still be expected."

The Guardian is running a live blog with flight updates. Eurocontrol’s Twitter page also has regular announcements.

The ash cloud has downed tens of thousands of flights since its April 14 eruption. When Eyjafjallajökull last erupted, in 1821, it kept spewing ash for about 14 months, and companies are preparing for an extended period of flight disruptions.

With airports in Britain closed much of the weekend and on Monday, Virgin trains announced on its website it had made 7,000 extra train seats available Sunday and Monday for journeys between Scotland and London, plus another 5,000 extra seats available Tuesday. Bloomberg news is reporting a surge in train and ferry bookings.

IN PICTURES: Iceland volcano

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