Volcano briefly forces fresh shutdown of Bali airport

Passengers wait for their delayed flights at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on July 12, 2015. Ash spewing from a volcano closed Bali's airport on July 22 for the third time this month, forcing the cancellation of flights
Passengers wait for their delayed flights at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on July 12, 2015. Ash spewing from a volcano closed Bali's airport on July 22 for the third time this month, forcing the cancellation of flights and stranding tourists during peak holiday season. PHOTO: EPA

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) - Ash spewing from a volcano closed the airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali Wednesday for the third time this month, forcing the cancellation of flights and stranding tourists during peak holiday season.  

Mount Raung on Indonesia’s main island of Java, which has been rumbling for weeks, sent an ash cloud floating over Bali that closed Ngurah Rai international airport, the transport ministry said.  

However the shutdown was brief, with the airport reopening around two hours later as the ash was blown away.  

The ash also closed two small airports on Java serving domestic routes, and both remained shut Wednesday afternoon.  

Volcanic ash from Raung had already closed Bali airport twice this month, between July 9 and 12, forcing almost 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed and creating a backlog that took days to clear.  

The closure of Bali, which attracts millions of visitors from around the world to its palm-fringed beaches every year, has come during one of the busiest times of the year for the tourist industry.  

The latest shutdown will also cause disruption for domestic tourists, as millions are making their way back home after going away for last week’s Muslim holiday of Eid.  

Australian airlines Virgin Australia and Jetstar said they were cancelling flights on Wednesday to and from Bali, a favourite holiday destination for Australians.

It was not immediately clear how many flights had been cancelled by the new airport closure.  

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika said Raung was shooting ash 3,000m into the air on Wednesday, and the wind was blowing it southeast towards Bali.  

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which is home to the world’s highest number of active volcanoes at around 130.  

The main concern for airlines regarding volcanic ash is not that it can affect visibility but rather that it could damage aircraft engines.