Indonesia extends closure of Bali airport by another day; 89,000 affected by Mount Agung’s eruption

Passengers ask staff about their flights after Ngurah Rai airport closed their operation due to eruption of Mount Agung in Bali resort island, November 27, 2017

Passengers ask airport staff about their flights after Ngurah Rai airport closed its operation following the eruption of Mount Agung in Bali on Nov 27, 2017.
Antara Foto via Reuters/Fikri Yusuf

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – Indonesia on Tuesday (Nov 28) extended the closure of the international airport in Bali by another 24 hours because of ash from the eruption of the island’s Mount Agung volcano.

A report from local aviation navigation authorities showed that “aircraft flight channels are covered with volcanic ash”.

The I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport was originally scheduled to reopen on 7am local time on Tuesday, but the authorities announced on Tuesday morning the airport will remain closed until 7am on Wednesday.

At least 445 flights have been cancelled due to the eruption of Mount Agung in Bali, affecting the travel plans of some 89,000 passengers.

Ten alternative airports have been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighbouring provinces.

A separate notice showed Lombok airport had been reopened, after an earlier closure overnight due to the eruption.

On Monday, authorities ordered 100,000 residents living near the volcano to evacuate immediately, warning that the first major, full-blown eruption in 54 years could be “imminent”.

An eight to 10 km exclusion zone has been imposed around the summit.

Hitam Putih #gunungagung #eruption #timelapse #5minutes

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Agung’s last eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages by hurling out pyroclastic material, hot ash, lava and lahar.

On Tuesday, life continued largely as normal in villages surrounding Agung, with residents setting up traditional markets and offering prayers as the volcano continued to spew tall columns of ash and smoke from its crater.

Many residents evacuated in September when the alert was last raised to the highest level have returned to their homes and farms due to worries over their livelihood and livestock.  Indonesia’s Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG), which is using drones, satellite imagery and other equipment, said predictions were difficult in the absence of instrumental recordings from the last eruption 54 years ago.

It warned that if a similar eruption occurred, it could send rocks bigger than fist-size up to 8 km  from the summit and volcanic gas a distance of 10 km within three minutes.

Recordings now show the northeast area of Agung’s peak has swollen in recent weeks “indicating there is fairly strong pressure toward the surface”, PVMBG said.