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© Associated Press
Safety measures: An aircraft maintenance worker covers a jet engine at Belfast City Airport, Northern Ireland, yesterday as a cloud of volcanic ash made its way across Europe
One million Britons were stranded abroad last night by the travel paralysis caused by volcanic ash.

The unprecedented air lockdown was extended until at least 7am today but the chaos and confusion will drift well into next week.

Some holidaymakers in Spain were told they face a ten-day wait for a flight home and the delays - coming at the end of the Easter holiday period - intensified problems caused by the massive Icelandic eruption.

Schoolchildren, and their teachers, will be missing from classrooms on Monday, and Britain faces shortages of air-freighted food as the impact of the vast spume of ash begins to bite beyond air travel.

Fruit and vegetables including lettuce, grapes, spring onions and asparagus may be missing from many supermarket shelves next week and firms specialising in flying in produce from overseas are also warning of higher prices.

The transport giant Norbert Dentressangle said activity at its perishable air freight handling centre at Heathrow, the UK's largest, was at a standstill. The result will be a three-day shortfall in the supply of products including prepacked fruit salads and flowers.

It said that while there are enough products on shelves and in warehouses to see stores through the weekend, supermarkets will be 'severely impacted' next week.

Some desperate travellers were paying hundreds of pounds for taxis to bring them back via ferries from Ireland or to take them into Europe.

Forecasters say there is no imminent change in the wind direction to blow the vast cloud away from Britain and large swathes of northern Europe.

Day two of the chaos caused by the Mount Eyjafjallokull eruption saw the first reports of volcanic ash settling in the UK, as World Health Organisation officials suggested people consider wearing masks if they venture outside.

And as Transport Secretary Lord Adonis told travellers to expect ' significant disruption' for at least 48 hours, the cost to airlines alone was put at an astonishing £200million a day.

There was one chink of light when air traffic control company Nats lifted flight restrictions for much of Scotland and Northern Ireland. BA said it would operate 'a number of flights' from the U.S. into Scotland overnight.

The assessment of the huge scale of the travel disruption came from the Association of British Travel Agents, which said as many as 150,000 people a day will have left the country in the seven days leading up to the blanket ban on air travel.

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© Associated Press
A satellite image of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajokull glacier in Iceland
A spokesman said: 'We estimate there could be as many as a million British people stranded abroad.'

The majority were stuck in Europe, with Spain particularly popular at this time of year. More than 100 flights were cancelled at Malaga airport on the Costa del Sol. Others are stranded in North America and may have to wait well into next week to return.

Eurocontrol, the organisation in charge of Europe's airspace, said it will hold crisis talks on Monday as more countries closed down national airspace and the volcanic ash cloud continued its south-eastern sweep 35,000 feet above the continent. Only 12,000 to 13,000 European flights operating yesterday instead of the 29,500 anticipated.

Pilots have reported smelling sulphur dioxide, a gas released by volcanoes, in cockpits, and scientists said traces of volcanic dust on the ground had been found in Sunderland, Sheffield, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Lerwick.

The World Health Organisation said Europeans should try to stay indoors if ash starts falling from the sky.

A spokesman said the microscopic ash was potentially dangerous because inhaled particles can reach the lungs and cause respiratory problems. There is a heightened risk for those with asthma and respiratory diseases.

For the second day running, travellers unable to fly scrambled for alternative transport.

Eurostar's 58 services were full yesterday, with more than 46,000 passengers on its trains. The company denied charges of ' profiteering' after customers found they could not book £58 tickets online and, when they phoned to book, were told they were no longer available and charged more than £200.

Eurostar said it did operate a system where prices rise and fall according to demand and supply, but added: 'We are not profiteering.'

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© Associated Press
Dusty: A car in Iceland drives through the ash from the volcano
Many more took ferries to reach the Continent. P&O Ferries said it was unable to accept any further foot-passenger bookings before Monday 'as a result of the unprecedented surge in demand due to the airline crisis'.

Coach company Eurolines increased its services, while minicab company Addison Lee received requests for journeys to cities as far away as Paris, Milan, Amsterdam and Zurich.

A group of stranded businessmen and doctors - who needed to get home to see their patients - paid a taxi £700 to take them from Belfast to London after they were stranded.

Experts at accountants KPMG say the cost to airlines alone is racking up at £200million a day. More than 500,000 passengers a day normally fly in and out of the UK on around 5,300 flights. The cost to them from extra delays and hotel bills is likely top £1billion.

And while airlines are re-booking and refunding customers, critics accused insurance firms of dragging their feet in deciding whether they would compensate travellers or invoke catchall 'Act of God' clauses to escape a pay-out.

This was not the wedding photo Kelly Williams and Barry Stephens had hoped for.

The couple have been stranded at Gatwick since yesterday morning and look set to miss their dream wedding in Antigua in the Caribbean.

Miss Williams, a fitness instructor from Leicester, said: 'When they told me the plane had been cancelled I burst out crying. I've planned this for three years.

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© Associated Press
Frozen: Ice chunks carried downstream by floodwaters caused by volcanic activity lie on the Markarfljot riverbank in Iceland yesterday
'I'd heard about the volcanic clouds so I was worried we might have problems flying out. But I never thought the flight would be cancelled. I am gutted.'

The 29-year-old, who posed for a photo with Mr Stephens, 28, and their other guests at Gatwick, said they were now trying to find another venue.

'We are going on a three-week European cruise so I am ringing round all the places we stop,' she said. 'I suppose we will have one hell of a wedding day story.'

Chris and Sam Capes flew to America for the trip of a lifetime over Easter.

But the couple and their three-year-old son, Isaac, who were supposed to return home with KLM on Thursday, are now stranded in New York until Tuesday at the earliest.

Mr Capes, a 34-year-old civil servant, said: 'I know there are worse places to be stranded but we have work commitments and need to get home.

'Of all the things that could have delayed our flight we never expected a volcanic eruption to ruin our plans.'

The couple, pictured on their wedding day, organised their road trip around America themselves and are having to foot the extra hotel costs themselves.

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© PA
Coating: Researchers at Sheffield Hallam University collected these particles of volcanic ash (seen here under a microscope) which fell on cars in the centre's grounds earlier today
Mrs Capes, 33, a beauty therapist from Chester, said: 'I am self-employed so every day I'm away I'm losing money. We've had a fantastic time in America, but this is just a bitter end to our holiday of a lifetime.'
Stranded in Spain

Stacey and Darren Barker and their two children have been told they will be stuck in Spain for the next week following the closure of UK airports.

They had been due to fly from Malaga to Manchester with easyJet at lunchtime yesterday after a week-long break on the Costa del Sol.

However, the airline has told the family they will not get a flight until Friday. Mr Barker, 35, who owns a bakery in Sheffield, is desperate to get back to work, while their daughter Yasmin, six, should be returning to school on Monday.

Mrs Barker, 28, pictured with Yasmin and son Harrison, two, said: 'I don't understand why it has to take so long. A week is an awfully long time.

'People might think we're lucky to have an extra week's holiday but in reality it's disastrous for us. Darren runs his own business so we're losing money every day that we're here.'