Ash spewing from a volcano forced Indonesian authorities to close the international airport on Bali on Tuesday, an official said, temporarily grounding all flights to the popular holiday island.
Authorities decided to close Ngurah Rai International Airport for four hours until 11.30 pm (1530 GMT) so they could assess the risk posed by a large ash cloud drifting from Mount Rinjani, an active volcano on the nearby island of Lombok.
Airport manager Trikora Harjo said the situation would be re-evaluated as the evening went on but unless conditions improved the airport could remain shut.
“If there’s any chance available (to reopen the airport) I will, but if not, I will continue to keep it closed,” he told AFP, adding he did not yet know how many flights would be affected.
Delay in Chhota Rajan’s deportation?
The closure of the airport may delay the deportation of Indian underworld don Chhota Rajan who was arrested in Bali last week and faces more than 70 cases at home.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had said on Tuesday that Rajan will be brought to Mumbai, but he didn’t give any further details. He said security arrangements were in place for Rajan’s return.
There were reports that Rajan will be brought back from Bali on Tuesday night. “The clearance has come, by tonight he will be out,” news agency ANI quoted an Interpol official as saying.
Mumbai police, however, said they were yet to receive any official communication on when the arrested gangster will be brought back.
“We have no official information from the CBI on bringing back Rajan,” Mumbai Police Commissioner Ahmed Javed told reporters on Tuesday.
He, however, said Mumbai Police has put in place all the arrangements for the safe custody of the 55-year-old don, when he shall be deported from Bali to the metropolis.
“We have examined two to three places in the city to keep the don safely while in custody,” he said.
Rajendra Sadashiv Nikhalje, widely known as Chhota Rajan, was arrested by police in Bali last week, ending a two-decade-long international manhunt. Rajan has been on Interpol’s wanted list since 1995 suspected of running a crime syndicate that engaged in extortion, arms struggling and contract killing.
Rajan was arrested on the basis of a Red Corner Notice from Interpol and following a tip-off by Australian authorities to the police in Indonesia.
An Indian team, comprising officers from CBI, Mumbai and Delhi Police, are in the resort island with a detailed dossier on 55-year-old don and his involvement in more than 75 heinous cases ranging from murder, extortion to smuggling and drug trafficking in India.
Meanwhile, Australian airlines Virgin Australia and Jetstar cancelled all flights Tuesday, deeming conditions unsafe for flying, with Virgin also scrapping its roster for Wednesday.
Jetstar advised passengers not to travel to the airport for flights to and from Bali until further notice, while AirAsia said several flights would be “adjusted” due to the temporary closure.
Ash from a different volcano stranded thousands of passengers on Bali for days during the peak holiday season in July.