Reykjavik, May 22: Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air.
The eruption was far larger than one a year ago that caused international travel chaos -- but scientists said it was unlikely to have the same widespread effect.
University of Iceland geophysicist Magnus Tumi Gudmundsson said the eruption of the Grimsvotn volcano was "much bigger and more intensive than Eyjafjallajokull," the volcano whose April 2010 eruption shut Europe's airspace for five days.
The ash plunged areas near the volcano into darkness and covered buildings, cars and fields in a thick layer of gray soot Sunday.
Civil protection workers urged residents to wear masks and stay indoors.
Airport and air traffic control operator ISAVIA said Keflavik airport, the country's main hub, was closed. In April 2010, officials closed the continent's air space for five days, fearing the ash could harm jet engines.
Some 10 million travelers were stranded.
The Grimsvotn volcano, which lies under the uninhabited Vatnajokull glacier about 120 miles (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Reykjavik, began erupting Saturday for the first time since 2004.