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Two years ago, Iceland’s banks blew up spectacularly, taking much of the world by surprise and leaving the British and Dutch governments angrily out of pocket. Now, the sparsely populated north Atlantic island has produced another big explosion – again affecting the two countries. This time, nature rather than the bankers, is to blame. A volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, has erupted for the first time since 1821, sending a plume of dust up to seven miles (11 kilometres) into the atmosphere.

The volcano is situated in a remote area, so mercifully there have been no casualties. The dust cloud from the eruption has been blown east away from the island itself. Indeed, it is beyond Iceland’s shores that it is causing the most bother. The cloud has settled over large parts of north western Europe. The fine silicate dust ejected by Eyjafjallajökull turns out to be ideally designed to do critical damage to aero engines. Consequently, big chunks of European airspace have been closed.