Bali reopens airport after volcano eruption strands thousands of tourists


Ash from a volcanic eruption forced the closure of the global airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Friday, as Mount Agung volcano became active again after a lull since late past year.

The airport reopened at 2:30 p.m. and all contingency plans to resume flights have been prepared and implemented according to procedure.

All three carriers said passengers will receive an SMS or email if their Bali flight is affected however Australians are urged to check airline website for flight status updates.

The cancelled flights include those between Bali and Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Singapore, Perth, Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Solo.

Tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after last year's eruption. Mount Agung is about 70km northeast of Bali's tourist hotspot of Kuta. The return flight NZ246 from Denpasar to Auckland was also cancelled.

Almost 450 flights were cancelled on Friday, affecting some 75,000 people, as the Mount Agung volcano gushed a 2500m column of ash and smoke for a second day.

Denpasar Airport is closed as a result of the volcanic activity.

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There was no indication of how long the eruption might last, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the disaster mitigation agency said in a statement, and the alert level on the volcano remains unchanged for now.

The airport at Bali, the biggest tourist destination in Indonesia, was shut down for more than a day in November, leading to losses of about $1 billion for the tourism industry.

The ash cloud out of Mount Agung was reported to stretch to a height of 2000m, with white steam projecting from the volcano and a red glow as the sun came down.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

An earlier flight on AirAsia was called off before the airport was shuttered early Friday morning.

Among the airlines serving the resort island, Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya and Indonesia Air Asia said they were working to help stranded passengers.

Local government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.