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Volcano keeps Georgian delegation away from Warsaw

By Salome Modebadze
Monday, April 19
President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili has arrived to Poland from the US, via several European countries to attend the funerals of the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife. Sandra Roelofs, the First Lady, had already arrived in Poland by car from Brussels on April 18. However dangerous weather conditions caused by the ash cloud emitted by the volcanic eruption in Iceland prevented the official Georgian delegation leaving for Poland to attend memorial service for the victims of the plane crash in Warsaw.

Konstantine Kavtaradze, Georgia’s Ambassador to Poland, said that the attendance of foreign delegations at the memorial service had not been not planned but Polish officials had made an exception for Georgia as a friendly gesture. Ultimately however Airzena Georgian Airlines couldn’t take responsibility for conducting the Tbilisi-Krakow flight because of the danger.

“Polish air space is closed due to the eruption, which has made us change our decision to fly to Poland for the funerals of President Lech Kaczynski and his wife. We hope that our Polish colleagues will understand and respect our enforced absence,” Davit Bakradze, Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia said on April 17. He added that he hoped that conditions would improve in order to allow President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili, who was then in the United States, to attend the funeral.

The volcanic eruption in Iceland, which began on April 14, has forced a number of European countries to close their air spaces. Thus most world leaders will be unable to express their personal condolences to the Polish nation by attending the funeral of its late President. The ash cloud emitted from the volcano is preventing air companies conducting most flights, but some politicians and representatives have been able to travel to Warsaw by car, helicopter or train. European airports have postponed international flights, causing thousands of passengers problems. Russian airports are still open however, claiming that the volcanic ash won't threaten their country.

Several flights to Europe from Tbilisi International Airport have also been delayed as the ash covers the airspace of Europe. Major airports in the UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Belgium remain closed. Icelandic geophysicists can’t make any exact predictions about how long the Eyjafjallajokul volcano will be erupting but they say it may continue to do so for weeks or months. The thick ash cloud which has reached 9 kilometres in length is getting thicker, but a change in wind direction has enabled Icelandic scientists to observe the volcanic crater and make further studies.

The Messenger asked Tbilisi Airport Information Bureau for the details of the next available flight schedules but in vain. All the flights, we were told, are dependent on the weather conditions. Nino Giorgobiani, Head of PR for Airzena, couldn’t specify an exact date when international flights would be reinstated either. “Everything depends on the weather. Unfortunately we can do nothing before the air space of European countries is reopened,” Giorgobiani explained to us, stressing that affected passengers will be given refunds.