07/17/2015, 00.00
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Volcano alert: airports closed, flights canceled, millions grounded

by Mathias Hariyadi
Dust, lava and lapilli have forced the closure of airports; grounded many passengers traveling to the festive Ramadan. Yesterday more than 220 flights canceled or suspended from Surabaya. Main roads and highways blocked.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The volcano emergency in Indonesia has forced the closure of several airports and left millions of passengers trying to reach their families for the end of Ramadan celebrations, stranded .

Dust and lapilli continue to explode from two different craters, causing the closure of the other three airports in the last hours. In all there are five airports blocked, causing serious damage to public transport.

Mount Raung (Bondowoso district in the province of East Java) and Mount Gamalama, active for weeks as well as ì the volcano Raung, last week, have caused the closure of airports including the main one in Bali. However, in the last hours the situation has improved and the airport was able to reopen.

Meanwhile remain other airports around the country are still blocked including the Surabaya hub, Indonesia's second busiest airport. Last night the national aviation chief ordered the closure of Surabaya and Malang in East Java and Ternate in northern Moluccas, near Gamalama. Since last week those of Jember and Banyuwangi, near Raung remain closed.

Yesterday, at least 222 scheduled flights to and from the airport in Surabaya were delayed or canceled; almost 28 thousand passengers have had to reschedule their trip.

The eruption of several volcanoes in the archipelago has coincided with the festival of Eid, which marks the end of Islam's holy month for  fasting and prayer an important holiday in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, when  millions of people take the opportunity to take a holiday or to visit their loved ones.

A journalist from Jakarta named Kormen told AsiaNews that the delays and cancellations that have involved many flights yesterday. Fr. Pantus, a priest of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference, was blocked for hours at the international airport Soekarno-Hatta, because of the cancellation of the flight to Bali. And for those who preferred the car, the situation was hardly better, with long queues and traffic jams on the main highways.

The Indonesian archipelago is made up of thousands of islands and atolls surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, in an area known by scientists as the "Ring of Fire". It is characterized by intense volcanic and seismic activity, caused by the collision of several continental plates. Memories of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit the region in December 2004 are still alive in peoples minds, with an epicenter off the coast of Aceh, causing hundreds of thousands of victims throughout Asia.

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