Indonesia flights back on track after volcano cancellations | world | Hindustan Times
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Indonesia flights back on track after volcano cancellations

world Updated: Nov 08, 2010 09:05 IST
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US President Barack Obama's twice-postponed visit to Indonesia looked back on track on Monday after flights to the capital returned to normal following a weekend of disruptions caused by a deadly volcano.

Mount Merapi, on the outskirts of Yogyakarta city in central Java, began spewing lava, superheated gas and deadly clouds of ash two weeks ago and has so far killed over 130 people and forced the evacuation of nearly 300,000.

Dozens of flights to and from Jakarta, around 600 km (375 miles) from the volcano, were cancelled over the weekend after the volcano belched fresh clouds of volcanic ash 6,000 metres (19,000 ft) into the atmosphere.

Despite Indonesian authorities saying conditions were safe, scores of international flights were cancelled. By Monday, normal service had resumed.

"All have returned to normal," said Andang Santoso, a spokesman for the operator of
Jakarta's Sukarno-Hatta airport. "They trust us that there is no impact of Merapi here, so they can fly here."

On Sunday, U.S. officials had said they were closely monitoring the situation ahead of Obama's scheduled Tuesday arrival.

Obama has twice postponed visits to Indonesia -- where he lived for several years as a child with his mother -- the first time in March as he struggled to push through a health reform bill in the U.S. and the second in June following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A British Airways flight came close to crashing nearly three decades ago after its engines sucked in ash from another Indonesian Volcano, Mount Galunggung, about 180 km southeast of Jakarta.

Indonesia's disaster agency said hot toxic pyroclastic clouds continued to roll down the slopes of Merapi on Monday, hampering efforts to create a 20 km (12 miles) exclusion zone around the summit.

The country is also struggling with the aftermath of a tsunami in the remote Mentawai islands off Sumatra last week that killed at least 445 people.