19 Apr 2010

No flights to leave New Caledonia for Europe until the middle of the week

7:16 pm on 19 April 2010

The French High Commission in New Caledonia says no passenger plane can leave Noumea in the direction of Europe for the next 48 hours, due to disruptions from the volcanic eruption in Iceland.

It says once the re-opening of the European airspace has been confirmed, the first possible departure will be Wednesday.

Meanwhile, people in Tahiti who have travelled to France on long Easter holidays are struggling to get home after the disruption caused across Europe by the eruption.

About 3,000 people in French Polynesia are being affected by the air travel disruptions

French Polynesians in France cannot return to Tahiti while Air Tahiti Nui and Air France passengers bound to France from Tahiti cannot leave because of the closure of airports in Paris.

The publisher of the Tahiti Pacifique monthly, Alex du Prel, says people can only fly as far as Los Angeles.

"Then we have a lot of people from Tahiti who are in France and Tahiti is so much used to this umbilical cord to Paris, and it's been cut for a week now and there's no panic but people are getting nervous."

Officials are planning to set up a special unit later today to deal with the travel emergency.