Bali, 445 flights cancelled because of Mount Agung eruptions
by Mathias Hariyadi

At least five thousand passengers and tourists are looking for alternative ways to leave the island. Ash and debris have reached 4,000 metres. Several villages are in the dark. When Mount Agung erupted in 1963 and 1964, thousands died.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Denpasar International Airport has announced the cancellation of at least 445 flights – including 196 international flights – because of the dense cloud and smoke over the area as the Mount Agung continues to spew dangerous volcanic ash and steam ahead of an expected major eruption.

The volcano is the highest mountain and most active volcano of the island of Bali, Indonesia’s main tourist destination. Some five thousand passengers are grounded and seeking alternative ways to get off the island.

Indonesia has a number of airports capable of handling international flights: Juanda in Surabaya (East Java), Lombok Praya (Lombok Island), Sultan Hasanuddin of Makassar (South Sulawesi), Sultan Aji Muhammad Sulaiman Sepinggan in Balikpapan (East Kalimantan), Adi Soemarmo in Surakarta, Ahmad Yani at Semarang, Adopted in Yogyakarta (all three in Central Java).

The decision to close Denpasar’s Ngurah Rai International Airport was taken early this morning.

The volcano began erupting last Friday, billowing ash and rock debris up to 4,000 metres above the mountain summit, enveloping the area in ash clouds.

The falling ash has darkened the area around the airport and created problems for three villages, Besakih, Pempatan and Rendang. Winds have also pushed the ash to the southeast, affecting the villages of Amlapura, Amed, and Padangbai.

Mount Agung began erupting in September, threatening Bali’s tourism industry. Locals were forced to flee the most dangerous areas, seeking safety in emergency shelters.

Thousands of people and their pets spent time in shelters and then returned until they were forced to evacuate again on Friday.

On the slopes of Mount Agung lies the ancient Hindu temple of Besakih, which is likely to have suffered damages from the falling ash.

The latest major series of eruption occurred in 1963 and 1964, killing thousands.