Indonesia orders fresh shutdown of Bali airport due to volcano, sparking more travel misery

Ash and smoke are emitted from Mount Raung volcano during a small eruption as seen from the village of Sempol, Banyuwangi, in East Java, Indonesia.
Ash and smoke are emitted from Mount Raung volcano during a small eruption as seen from the village of Sempol, Banyuwangi, in East Java, Indonesia.PHOTO: REUTERS

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) - The Indonesian authorities ordered a fresh shutdown of the airport on the resort island of Bali on Thursday (Aug 6), sparking flight cancellations and travel misery for tourists during peak holiday season.

Transport Ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said Ngurah Rai airport would be closed for several hours from midday due to ash drifting from Mount Raung, on Indonesia's main Java island.

Australian carriers Jetstar and Virgin Australia announced they were cancelling flights in and out of Bali on Thursday, a popular holiday destination that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year.

The closure was the fourth shutdown of Bali airport in recent weeks due to the volcano, which has been spewing ash and lava high into the air since late June.

The disruption has come during peak holiday season, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

The most serious period was between July 9 and 12, when two closures forced almost 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed and created a backlog that took days to clear.

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika told AFP that the volcano was on Thursday shooting out ash clouds that were larger than those it had recently been emitting.

"The volcano normally shoots out ash 700m to 800m but it's around 1,000m today," he said.

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, around 130.