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 Post subject: Sri Lanka to shut airport at night
 Post Posted: Thu May 03, 2007 7:58 pm 
Tiger air raids force Sri Lanka to shut airport at night

The Bandaranaike International Airport will close between 10:30 pm and 4:30 am from May 10. The nighttime closure would be for three months initially, and any further extension would depend on the security situation, officials said.

Thursday, May 03, 2007
© 2005-2007 Diligent Media Corporation Ltd/AFP


COLOMBO: Sri Lanka will close its only international airport at night from next week following a spate of nocturnal bombing raids by Tamil Tiger aircraft, a top aviation official said.

The Bandaranaike International Airport, which shares a runway with an adjoining military base, will close between 10:30 pm and 4:30 am from May 10, acting director general of Civil Aviation Parakrama Dissanayake said.

Dissanayake said the advance notice was to give international airlines a week to reschedule their flights to the troubled island where government troops are locked in combat with separatist Tamil Tiger rebels. At

least three international airlines suspended night flights after Tamil Tiger guerrillas flew across the airport's airspace to carry out bombings in the city and its suburbs in the past month.

The nighttime closure would be for three months initially, and any further extension would depend on the security situation, officials said.

"The decision was taken mainly to minimise public inconvenience which may take place due to disruption of flights. Passenger safety is paramount to us," Dissanayake said.

With the airport shutting down three times in the past month, many incoming flights have been diverted to the nearby southern Indian city of Chennai.

Dubai's Emirates Airlines and Singapore Airlines have switched to daytime flying after their services were disrupted when Tiger rebels bombed a fuel depot near Colombo last Sunday using light aircraft.

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has totally suspended its services.

Singapore Airlines, Cathay and Emirates account for about a quarter of Sri Lanka's air passenger traffic, according to local travel agents.

The airport handles about 70 flights a day and the nighttime shut down would affect 40 per cent of them.

The Tigers, who are fighting for a separate state in the north and east, carried out air attacks for the first time on March 26 by bombing the Katunayake airbase where the military parks its fleet of supersonic jets.

Tiger guerrillas on foot had previously attacked the air base in July 2001, when they destroyed more than a dozen military aircraft and attacked six civilian passenger jets at the international airport.


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