Thousands stranded as Bali's Mt Agung eruption shuts airport

Thousands stranded as Bali's Mt Agung eruption shuts airport

Bali closed its global airport following a volcanic eruption on the Indonesian resort island that sent thick smoke and ash billowing 2,000m into the air, an official said on Friday (Jun 29).

The airport closure affected about 75,000 passengers internationally and resulted in almost 450 flights cancelled, according to Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Mt Agung is about 70km northeast of Bali's tourist hotspot of Kuta.

Ash from the eruption forced the closure of the worldwide airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Previously, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said volcanic material began spewing from Mt. Agung's crater at 10:30 a.m. local time on Thursday, causing volcanic ash to rain in areas west and southwest of the volcano.

The airports, which were shut from 3 a.m. local time will remain closed at least until 9 p.m., PT Angkasa Pura, the state-run airport operator said in a statement. The shutdowns will lead to cancellation of 446 flights, including 207 global flights, affecting an estimated 74,928 passengers, he said. Even in December 2017, the authorities closed the airport and evacuated closer to the volcano.

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Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jet Star were monitoring the situation in consultation with Australia's Bureau of Meteorology's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, which was due to meet on Friday morning to assess when flights might resume.

No other airlines have cancelled flights yet.

It had a dramatic increase in activity last year, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, but had quietened by early this year.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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

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