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Bali’s Mount Agung volcano active again, spits ash 2,000 metres in sky

The early morning closure of Ngurah Rai airport sparked the cancellation of nearly 450 flights to and from Bali. Mount Agung shot a tower of smoke and ash some 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky.

world Updated: Jun 29, 2018 17:14 IST
Agencies, Denpasar (Indonesia)

Thousands of tourists were stranded on Friday as Bali shuttered its international airport following a volcanic eruption on the Indonesian resort island that shot a thick plume of ash and smoke thousands of metres into the sky, officials said.

The early morning closure of Ngurah Rai airport sparked the cancellation of nearly 450 flights to and from the tropical paradise. Mount Agung shot a tower of smoke and ash some 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky Thursday evening.

The airport was closed early Friday after a pilot flying overhead detected traces of volcanic ash as high as 23,000 feet. Ash is dangerous for planes as it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

Bali’s main international gateway will be closed until at least Friday evening, according to officials, who added that two other domestic airports were also shut. The fresh activity threatens to create travel chaos after an Agung eruption in November stranded thousands and pounded Bali’s lucrative tourism industry and wider economy.

A local guide and foreign tourists take pictures of Mount Agung volcano erupting. ( Reuters )

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said nearly 450 flights were cancelled, affecting some 75,000 people.

The regional Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Darwin, Australia, said winds would carry the ash southwest toward Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island. Volcanic ash is a potentially deadly threat to aircraft that can cause engines to “flame out”.

Despite the eruption, Agung’s status remained on alert status, the second highest danger warning. There is a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) no-go zone around Agung’s peak.

Tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after last year’s eruption. The volcano is about 75 kilometres from Bali’s tourist hub in Kuta. ( Reuters )

Australian visitor Rod Bird came early to the airport only to be told his flight back to Perth had been cancelled for the second time. An earlier flight on AirAsia was called off before the airport was shuttered early Friday morning.

“They told us the volcano is going off so they rebooked us for this morning and we got here at 5:00 am only to be turned away again. So we’ve had two cancelled flights,” Bird told AFP.

“Well it’s Bali, these things happen and we are fine with it. We just miss the kids,” he added.

Some 446 domestic and international flights have been cancelled after the volcano roared backed to life, affecting about 75,000 passengers. Thousands were stranded at the airport or hotels Friday, but it was not immediately clear how many tourists were unable to leave the island. ( AP )

Bali’s governor appealed for calm, and said activity at the crater has declined significantly since Thursday evening. “We will try our best to find a solution so all visitors can continue their trip,” Governor Made Mangku Pastika said.

The volcano, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) northeast of Bali’s tourist hotspot of Kuta, last had a major eruption in 1963, killing about 1,100 people.

It had a dramatic increase in activity last year, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, but had quietened by early this year. Authorities lowered its alert status from the highest level in February.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

First Published: Jun 29, 2018 09:48 IST