An ash cloud from the June 4 eruption of Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex is making a second lap around the globe, crossing Australian airspace today after disrupting travel to and from Australia and New Zealand for six days last week.
Flights are grounded because the ash is capable of damaging the airplanes' engines.
Although the country's tourism industry has declined to give a speculative figure for the losses, an industry group told Xinhua that Australia's tourism industry is losing at least 10.5 million US dollars a day as a result of the grounded flights.
The industry has already suffered from rising fuel costs and travel problems caused by floods in Queensland and the tsunami and earthquake in Japan earlier this year, as The Wall Street Journal reports.
Australia's Courier-Mail reports that the airline industry is losing more than 30 million US dollars a day, coming on top of more than $40 million last week.
Some facts and figures from the Australian press about the ash cloud and airport shutdown:
- The Australian: The ash cloud is moving faster than 90 miles per hour, but is longer than 1,250 miles and will take awhile to clear from Australian airspace.
- The Age: The cloud is over Melbourne now (Tuesday night/Wednesday morning local time) and will begin clearing Sydney by midday Wednesday local time.
- The Australian: The cloud's base is lower than 20,000 feet – too low for domestic airlines to safely fly below like they did last week when the base was about 27,000 feet up.
- The Daily Telegraph (Australia): More than 120,000 people were stranded Tuesday alone. Last week, only 40,000 people were.
- The Age: More than 500 flights were canceled on Tuesday alone. The Australian: A Qantas airline official guessed that their airline alone would cancel another 200 on Wednesday. The Australian is doing live updates on flight cancellations here.
- The Australian: Aviation Minister Anthony Albanese said that Melbourne, Sydney, and Canberra airports (all in southeastern Australia) could be shutdown for as long as 48 hours
With airlines incapacitated, Greyhound stepped up its services, pulling buses from mining communities into the major cities to help those who were traveling within the country. The Age writes that the chaos caused by the cloud has revived the clamor for a high speed rail system connecting the cities of Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, and Brisbane.