NEW YORK (WPIX)—President Barack Obama scrapped plans to travel to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of Poland's president because of hazardous flying conditions caused by the volcanic ash cloud over Europe.
Obama said the U.S. ambassador to Poland, Lee Feinstein, would represent the United States at the service Sunday in Krakow for Lech Kaczynski. The White House announcement came about six hours before Obama was scheduled to depart on the overnight flight.
Kaczynski and 95 others, including numerous lawmakers, the central bank governor, the commanders of the country's armed forces and the head of its Olympic committee, died in a plane crash April 10 near Russia's Katyn forest, site of a World War II massacre of Polish officers.
Obama said in a statement that he would support the Polish people in any way he can as they recover from the loss of so many leaders and officials.
All airports in Poland were closed Saturday to flights above the cloud level of 20,000 feet because of the ash cloud. Scientists say that because the Icelandic volcano is situated below a glacial ice cap, the magma is being cooled quickly, causing explosions and plumes of grit that can be catastrophic to plane engines.