Tens of thousands tourists stranded as Bali volcano closes airport

Tens of thousands tourists stranded as Bali volcano closes airport

Tens of thousands of tourists, inducing Russians, have been left temporarily stranded at Bali’s international airport at the weekend after the island’s Mt Agung volcano erupted Saturday evening and again Sunday morning, forcing international airlines to cancel or detour flights.

Sutopo, a spokesman for the agency said that 40,000 people had evacuated out of around 90,000-100,000 residents estimated in the 8-10 km exclusion zone around Agung.

The volcanic eruptions which began 5.30pm local time on Saturday (8.30pm AEDT) sent plumes of ash and steam more than 3000 meters into the atmosphere and down onto villages within the 7.5 km evacuation zone enforced by authorities this week after a smaller eruption on Tuesday.

The ash cloud prompted aviation authorities to issue a red alert notice for Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport yesterday morning, and to close Lombok’s Bandana International Airport after southeasterly winds pushed the ash cloud towards the neighbouring island.

Police and soldiers were also distributing masks to residents in areas near the volcano.

Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai airport, which is about 60 km from the volcano, will be closed for 24 hours, according to its operator. A total of 445 flights - 196 international and 249 domestic - and 59,000 passengers had been affected, Reuters reported,

Ten alternative airports have been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighbouring provinces. The airport operator said it was providing buses to take travelers to ferry ports for alternative travel arrangements.

Government vulcanologist Gene Suantika urged people to remain calm.

“We will continue to see eruptions like this on similar scales but we cannot predict when Mt Agung will really erupt,” he said.

About 25,000 people deserted villages around the volcano, which began showing signs of activity in September, though many returned home earlier this month after the volcano.

The last time Mt Agung ­erupted, in 1963, almost 1600 people died and 220,000 had to be evacuated.