Bali flights grounded after volcano ash cloud closes airport

An Indonesian man looking on as Mount Baru Jari spews volcanic ash.
An Indonesian man looking on as Mount Baru Jari spews volcanic ash.PHOTO: AFP

DENPASAR (AFP) - Ash spewing from a volcano forced Indonesian authorities to close the international airport on Bali on Tuesday (Nov 3), an official said, temporarily grounding all flights to the popular holiday island.  

Authorities decided to close Ngurah Rai International Airport for four hours until 11.30pm (11.30pm Singapore time) so they could assess the risk posed by a large ash cloud drifting from Mount Rinjani, an active volcano on the nearby island of Lombok.

Airport manager Trikora Harjo said the situation would be re-evaluated as the evening went on but unless conditions improved the airport could remain shut.

“If there’s any chance available (to reopen the airport) I will, but if not, I will continue to keep it closed,” he told AFP, adding he did not yet know how many flights would be affected.

Australian airlines Virgin Australia and Jetstar had already cancelled all flights on Tuesday, including JQ117 from Singapore to Bali and JQ116 from Bali to Singapore, deeming conditions unsafe for flying, with Virgin also scrapping its roster for Wednesday.

Jetstar advised passengers not to travel to the airport for flights to and from Bali until further notice, and urged customers to visit Alert - Passengers travelling to/ from Singapore/ Bali for more information, or call the following numbers:

Australia: 131 538

Indonesia: 001 803 852 9779

Singapore: (65) 6499 9702

AirAsia said several flights would be “adjusted” due to the temporary closure.  

Ash from a different volcano stranded thousands of passengers on Bali for days during the peak holiday season in July.

No Indonesian airlines have suspended operations due to the volcanic ash, the Jakarta Globe said.

Standing at 3,726m, Mount Rinjani is Indonesia's second-highest active volcano. A volcano standing in its caldera, Mount Baru Jari, erupted on Sunday, sending hot clouds and debris up to around 10,000 feet and prompting the Indonesia authorities to raised its status to "alert" as it continues to spew ash, the Jakarta Globe said. 

It quoted Mr Azhar, chief of the West Nusa Tenggara Disaster Mitigation Agency, as saying on Tuesday that the agency had prepared a number of evacuation scenarios for some 40,000 residents living near Rinjani located in the North Lombok district.