Bali reopens airport after volcano eruption strands thousands of tourists

Bali opened its international airport Friday after a volcanic eruption temporarily grounded flights, stranding thousands of tourists on the Indonesian holiday island.

Ngurah Rai airport began operating around 2:30 pm local time (0730 GMT), about 12 hours after it closed in response to Mt. Agung belching smoke and ash.

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

A change in wind direction pushed the ash away from Bali's international gateway, allowing flights to resume, an airport official said.

"The airport will operate for 24 hours straight to get flights back on schedule," he added.

The early morning closure sparked the cancellation of more than 300 flights to and from the tropical paradise with nearly 27,000 passengers affected, according to the airport.

About 400 local residents living near the rumbling volcano - about 75 kilometres from Bali's tourist hub of Kuta - moved to evacuation centres.

A striking orange-red glow could be seen at the top of Agung's crater after it shot plumes of thick smoke some 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky Thursday evening.

Authorities closed the airport after a pilot flying overhead detected traces of volcanic ash as high as 23,000 feet.

An eruption at Agung in November also stranded thousands and pounded Bali's lucrative tourism industry, the backbone of its economy.

Tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after last year's eruption.

Australian visitor Rod Bird came early to the airport only to be told his flight back to Perth had been cancelled for the second time.

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

"They told us the volcano is going off so they rebooked us for this morning and we got here at 5:00 am only to be turned away again. So we've had two cancelled flights," Bird told AFP.

"Well it's Bali, these things happen and we are fine with it. We just miss the kids," he added.

Thousands were stranded at the airport or nearby hotels Friday, but it was not immediately clear how many tourists were unable to leave the island.

Despite the eruption, Agung's status remained on alert level, the second highest danger warning.

There is a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) no-go zone around Agung's peak.

Agung has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last year.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

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.

Thousands of tourists stranded as Bali volcano eruption closes airport

Thousands of tourists were stranded Friday as Bali shuttered its international airport following a volcanic eruption on the Indonesian resort island that shot a thick plume of ash and smoke thousands of metres into the sky, officials said.

The early morning closure of Ngurah Rai airport sparked the cancellation of nearly 280 flights to and from the tropical paradise with some 15,700 passengers affected, according to revised figures from an airport spokesman.

The initial numbers given were nearly 450 flights cancelled and 75,000 travellers affected. The spokesman did not give a reason for the dramatic revision.

A striking orange-red glow could be seen at the top of Mount Agung's crater after it shot smoke and ash some 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky Thursday evening.

The airport was closed early Friday after a pilot flying overhead detected traces of volcanic ash as high as 23,000 feet.

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

Bali's main international gateway will be closed until at least Friday evening, according to officials, who added that two other domestic airports were also shut.

The fresh activity threatens to create travel chaos after an Agung eruption in November stranded thousands and pounded Bali's lucrative tourism industry and wider economy.

Tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after last year's eruption.

The volcano is about 75 kilometres from Bali's tourist hub in Kuta.

Australian visitor Rod Bird came early to the airport only to be told his flight back to Perth had been cancelled for the second time.

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

"They told us the volcano is going off so they rebooked us for this morning and we got here at 5:00 am only to be turned away again. So we've had two cancelled flights," Bird told AFP.

"Well it's Bali, these things happen and we are fine with it. We just miss the kids," he added.

Thousands were stranded at the airport or area hotels Friday, but it was not immediately clear how many tourists were unable to leave the island.

Despite the eruption, Agung's status remained on alert status, the second highest danger warning.

There is a four-kilometre (2.5 mile) no-go zone around Agung's peak.

Bali's governor said officials were working on getting visitors on their way.

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

Agung has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last year.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is the world's most active volcanic region and lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

Flights canceled after Bali volcano eruption

Dozens of flights were cancelled Thursday as a rumbling Bali volcano belched a fresh plume of smoke and ash more than 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) into the sky.

Malaysia-based AirAsia axed 22 flights to and from the Indonesian holiday island as Mount Agung, about 75 kilometres from the tourist hub in Kuta, erupted again.

The carrier also postponed five other Bali flights.

Ngurah Rai International Airport spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim told AFP Australian airline JetStar also canceled 14 flights after the eruption even though the ash test at the airport came back negative.

However, Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said Agung's danger status had not changed and flights were not in danger.

The crater has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last year.

The volcano's activity slowed down for a time before the eruption threat reared its head again in November, sparking travel chaos and pounding Bali's lucrative tourism industry and its wider economy.

There is a four kilometre no-go zone around Agung's peak.

Agung's last major eruption in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is the world's most active volcanic region and lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

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