An anxious wait for tourists stranded in Bali by Mount Agung's eruption

Passengers ask staff about their flights near the flight screen after Ngurah Rai airport closed their operation due to eruption of Mount Agung.
Passengers ask staff about their flights near the flight screen after Ngurah Rai airport closed their operation due to eruption of Mount Agung.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - The closure of Bali's airport caused dismay for some tourists unable to return to families and jobs, while others took events in their stride -- and the chance to enjoy an extended holiday.

"What can I say? We have to cooperate because this is a natural disaster," Indian visitor Krisna Mustafa told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Bali's normally bustling Ngurah Rai airport, which handles hundreds of flights a day, is a near-ghost town, dotted with anxious Australian tourists desperate to get home. The airport closed on Monday because of the spreading ash cloud from Mount Agung and authorities extended the closure on Tuesday.

On Monday night, tourists settled down on makeshift beds on the airport's dusty floors, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) reported.

Some were considering making the more than 10-hour journey to Surabaya on Java island by road and ferry and then catching a series of flights across Indonesia back to Australia.

All were frustrated by what they say is a lack of updated information from their airlines about what happens next.

Janeen McKay said she heard about flight cancellations in a text message from her brother back in Australia as she was on her way to Bali's airport.

"I had nothing from Jetstar, they had my mobile number," the West Australian said, adding she has been told she won't be able to get home until Saturday at the earliest, AAP reported.

"We had a really nice time in Bali but then we get here and this has just ruined it," Ms McKay said.

On the other side of Bali, at Sanur beach, the distant crackle of lightning and an afternoon rain shower were the only annoyances for tourists lounging on sun beds and sipping cocktails, AAP reported.

For them, the airport's closure means an extended holiday.

"What's to be annoyed about, getting stuck here?" said Simon Allan, whose flight to Perth was cancelled.

Hassan Hamka, a lawyer from Melbourne, though, was less pleased. He said his cancelled Tuesday flight meant stranding him for seven more days and costing him thousands of dollars.

Mr Hamka said he missed one of his best friend's engagements and that his job had been affected. "I am a lawyer so it has caused major disruptions," he told US media outlet ABC News. "I missed a hearing for an alleged terrorist. And other cases. I was due in court but it didn't work out."

He said that he was stranded with friends in Bali and their families were very worried. He said communication had been poor and that his insurance company would not be covering him.

Scores of Malaysians are also stranded. Some were staying on in their hotels but many others have checked out and are now forced spend their nights at Ngruah Rai airport, The Star reported.

“Our flights today were cancelled. We decided to wait here at the airport,” said Jie Aman, a 35-year-old project coordinator who was on a holiday in Bali with her sister.

“It is crowded over here and we have to move around the airport with our luggage. Most airlines were giving out mineral water. Wi-fi services are available,” she said via WhatsApp messages.

Newlyweds S. Devan and K. Nishantini saw their honeymoon plans abruptly changed with the cancellation of their flight to Bali.

“Up until last night, we assumed that our 9.30am flight was still on. But at the airport counter, we were told that all flights to Bali had been cancelled. I managed to salvage our honeymoon though. We will be flying to Phuket tomorrow,” The Star quoted him as saying.