Bali reopens airport after volcano eruption grounded flights

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

Ngurah Rai airport began operating around 2:30pm local time (07:30 GMT), about 12 hours after it closed in response to Mount 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 told AFP news agency.

“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.

Two other airports in East Java were also ordered closed on Friday, according to DPA news agency.

Mount Agung has been spewing clouds of ash up to 2,500 metres into the air since Wednesday. However, the authorities’ warning level remains one notch below the highest advisory.

A danger zone has been set in a 4km area surrounding the volcano’s crater and some 300 local residents from around the mountain were evacuated voluntarily.

The volcano is about 75km from Bali’s tourist hub in Kuta [AP]

On Thursday evening, a striking orange-red glow could be seen at the top of the volcano after it shot smoke and ash into the sky.

The fresh activity threatens to create travel chaos after Mount 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 75km from Bali’s tourist hub in Kuta.

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.

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