Indonesia's airport resumes operations after brief closure over volcanic ash

Passangers wait at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport after their flights were delayed because of volcanic activity from Mt Raung, in Bali, Indonesia, on Aug 6, 2015.
Passangers wait at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport after their flights were delayed because of volcanic activity from Mt Raung, in Bali, Indonesia, on Aug 6, 2015.PHOTO: EPA

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) - Ash from a volcano forced Indonesian authorities to briefly close the airport on the resort island of Bali Thursday, sparking flight cancellations and travel misery for tourists during peak holiday season.

Volcano Mount Raung on Indonesia's main island of Java has been rumbling since late June, spewing ash and lava high into the air and causing busy Ngurah Rai international airport to be shutdown four times.

Transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said the airport was closed for two and a half hours from midday (0400 GMT) Thursday.

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

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika told AFP that the volcano on Thursday was 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.

The disruption comes 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.

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, with around 130.