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Monday, November 27, 2017

Bali Volcano Spews Ash Into Atmosphere

Mt. Agung has history of repeated eruptions  

THE AUSTRALIAN
By Amanda Hodge/Anton Muhajir
11/27/1027

Close to 8000 tourists 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.


Mt. 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.

While most domestic airlines continued to operate -albeit with significant delays - Jetstar was the first to cancel nine international flights in and off the island Saturday evening.

Others, including AirAsia and KLM, followed, while Qantas and Virgin Australia diverted Bali-bound Saturday night flights to other destinations.




While some 2350 passengers were affected by cancellations Saturday night flights had resumed by late morning (Bali time) yesterday with Jetstar and Virgin both confirming they had assessed the conditions as safe to fly.

However, Virgin cancelled all flights to Bali yesterday afternoon as a precautionary measure after the Agung Volcano Observatory updated its aviation colour code from orange to red.

“Due to the significant volcanic ash and weather conditions, we made the decision to cancel the rest of Sunday’s flights to Bali,” a Virgin spokeswoman said. “As it gets darker it gets harder to see where the ash is going, so we cancelled the flights and will reassess in the morning.”




Bambang Hargiyono, head of Indonesia’s Meteorological and Climate Agency, warned that Bali airport could yet be forced to close should the wind change direction.

“If the volcanic ash is ­approaching the airport we will close it immediately. There is no choice. We won’t take any risks,” he said.

Sydneysider Shehdeen ­Farooq, 39, his wife Sandra, and three-year-old son, mother and stepfather were among those stranded at the weekend.




The extended family flew into Bali several days before the first eruption for a week-long 70th birthday celebration, booked well before long-dormant Mt Agung began showing signs of activity.

But the group’s 10.30pm Saturday return flight to Sydney was cancelled just as they were issued their boarding passes.

“Suddenly the (check-in) staff went into a huddle and we thought initially it might be a pay dispute,” Mr Farooq said. “About 25 minutes later they said the flight was cancelled because of the volcano and they didn’t know when flights would resume.”

The family complied with a Jetstar directive not to return to the airport until they had received an email instructing them on their rescheduled flight, only to find that by doing so they had missed out on all available direct flights back to Sydney yesterday.




They were eventually placed on a late-afternoon flight to Melbourne with an overnight layover before connecting to Sydney.

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.

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.

Additional reporting by Olivia Caisley.



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