Most flights to and from Bali continue amid lower volcanic activity

A Balinese man stands at the gate of Lempuyang temple looking towards Mount Agung volcano, in Karangasem Regency, Bali, Indonesia, on Dec 2, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Flights in and out of Bali's I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport on Saturday (Dec 2) continued amid lower volcanic activity at Mount Agung.

Most carriers such as Singapore Airlines and SilkAir have been operating their Bali flights as scheduled since the airport was reopened on Wednesday.

The airport was closed on Monday due to the risks posed by ash clouds from the volcano, which has been erupting intermittently since Nov 21.

Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia said it would operate limited flights to and from Bali, while KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has suspended all night flights to and from the island for "as long as the volcano is active".

Jetstar on Saturday cancelled seven flights out of Bali, including JQ116, which usually departs for Singapore at 5.30pm local time.

The Australian budget carrier and Qantas said in a statement on Saturday that while flying conditions the airport was expected to be clear throughout the day, "the forecast for tonight has deteriorated and several flights have been cancelled as a result".

Hundreds of flights take off and land at Bali's airport each day.

Only one - an Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur - out of 49 flights departing the island between 3pm and 6pm local time on Saturday, was delayed, with the rest on leaving on schedule at the time of this report.

Among the 50 scheduled arrivals over the same period, five - mainly from Perth and Sydney - were cancelled or re-directed.

The decision by some airlines to cancel flights from Bali have frustrated some passengers.

Australian couple Justine and Greg Hill were on holiday with their two teenage children and had been due to fly out on Saturday, but their flight later this evening was cancelled, reported Reuters.

"It's more an inconvenience than anything. Don't understand why if other airlines are flying, some others aren't. Obviously, there must be safety protocols, but there's no detailed explanation," said Mr Hill, 46, who was waiting at the airport, told the wire news agency.

Meanwhile, Bali remains in a state of emergency, with Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) yet to lift its highest volcano alert level for the island.

The Volcanology and Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG) on Saturday did not detect any major tremors at the volcano. But the BNPB is keeping the 10km radius exclusion zone around it because of the ongoing "effusive eruption" and plumes of ash clouds.

An effusive eruption means there is a steady flow of lava. It is different from an explosive eruption where magma is violently expelled from the volcano.

The PVMBG in an update on Saturday advised people to stay out of the exclusion zone as conditions at Mount Agung remain dynamic and could change at any time.

The number of evacuees went up to more than 59,000 on Saturday - from about 29,000 on Tuesday - in over 200 shelters.

Bali is bracing itself for a major eruption of Mount Agung, which last recorded major blow-outs in 1963, when it claimed more than 1,500 lives.

Volcanologists have said it is difficult to predict when the next large eruption will occur, pointing to Mount Sinabung, another volcano in Indonesia, which is still at the highest alert level after roaring back to life four years ago.

The volcano on Sumatra, on the other end of the vast archipelagic state, erupted on Saturday at 8.45am local time, said BNPN spokesman Sutopo Nugroho.

"There were no casualties and no additional evacuees. The communities around Mount Sinabung were already aware of the (ongoing) eruptions of the volcano," he added.

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