Indonesia reopens Bali airport

Source:AFP Published: 2017/11/29 21:33:39

Volcanic ash shifts direction on resort island

Smoke billows from Mount Agung volcano (in background) in a photo taken from Kubu in the Karangasem Regency on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Bali's international airport reopened Wednesday afternoon after a nearly three-day shutdown as towering columns of volcanic ash and smoke shifted direction on the Indonesian resort island.

The move raised hope for some of the more than 120,000 tourists stranded after a surge in activity at Mount Agung had grounded hundreds of flights since Monday, sparking travel chaos.

It was not immediately clear when flights would resume. Airport officials cautioned that the airport could shut again if winds change direction once more and endanger flights.

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

"We are going to constantly monitor the situation on the ground," Ngurah Rai airport spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim told AFP.

Australian visitor Ebra Syllivan was overjoyed at the news.

"I didn't know it was going to reopen today - we just came here because our flight was [originally scheduled for] tonight and we've booked out of our motel," she said at the airport.

"It's fabulous because we need to get back. We've got to get back to work."

Mount Agung could produce a major eruption at any moment, officials have warned.

Tens of thousands have already fled their homes around the volcano, which last erupted in 1963, killing around 1,600 people, but as many as 100,000 will likely be forced to leave in case of a full eruption, disaster agency officials have said.

Experts said Agung's recent activity matches the build-up to the earlier disaster, which ejected enough debris - about a billion tons - to lower global average temperatures by around 0.3C for roughly a year.

"Small eruptions have been happening continuously but there's still the possibility of a bigger, explosive eruption," said Gede Suantika, a senior volcanologist at Indonesia's volcanology agency.

"Activity remains high and we are still on the highest alert level."

Roadside signs that read "Volcanic danger zone. No entry!" underscored the potential risks of staying behind.

There is a 10-kilometer exclusion zone around Agung, which is 75 kilometers from the beachside tourist hub of Kuta.


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