Bali airport reopens after volcano eruption causes thousands of tourists to be stranded

Bali airport reopens after volcano eruption causes thousands of tourists to be stranded

Bali airport 3
About 15,700 passengers were affected by the airport closure. (Image: Reuters)

DENPASAR: Bali opened its international airport on Friday (Jun 29) after a volcanic eruption temporarily grounded flights, stranding thousands of tourists on the Indonesian holiday island.

Ngurah Rai airport began operating around 2.30pm local time, about 12 hours after it closed in response to Mount Agung belching smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky.

Ash is dangerous for planes because it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

A change in wind direction pushed the ash away from Bali's international gateway, allowing flights to resume, an airport official said.

"The airport will operate for 24 hours straight to get flights back on schedule," he added.

The early morning closure sparked the cancellation of more than 300 flights to and from Bali with nearly 27,000 passengers affected, according to the airport.

About 400 local residents living near the rumbling volcano - about 75km from Bali's tourist hub of Kuta - moved to evacuation centres.

A striking orange-red glow could be seen at the top of Mount Agung's crater after it shot smoke and ash some 2,000 metres into the sky Thursday evening.

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About 15,700 passengers were affected by the airport closure. (Image: Reuters)

The airport was closed early Friday after a pilot flying overhead detected traces of volcanic ash as high as 23,000 feet.

The fresh activity threatened to create travel chaos after an Agung eruption in November stranded thousands and pounded Bali's lucrative tourism industry and wider economy.

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 5.00am 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.

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The early morning closure of Ngurah Rai airport sparked the cancellation of nearly 280 flights to and from Bali. (Image: Reuters)

Despite the eruption, Agung's status remained on alert status, the second highest danger warning. There is a 4km no-go zone around Agung's peak.

Bali's governor said officials were working on getting visitors on their way.

"We will try our best to find a solution so all visitors can continue their trip," Made Mangku Pastika said.

Agung has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last year.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is the world's most active volcanic region and lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

Source: AFP/zl

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