Ash unlikely to affect S'pore for now: Experts

Left: Panels at Changi Airport's T4 informing passengers of cancelled flights to Bali yesterday. Right: At T2, Bali-bound travellers queued to rebook flights and switch destinations.
Panels at Changi Airport's T4 informing passengers of cancelled flights to Bali yesterday.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Left: Panels at Changi Airport's T4 informing passengers of cancelled flights to Bali yesterday. Right: At T2, Bali-bound travellers queued to rebook flights and switch destinations.
At T2, Bali-bound travellers queued to rebook flights and switch destinations.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Weather experts here say volcanic ash from the Mount Agung eruption, which can hit air quality, is unlikely to affect Singapore for now - even as at least 14 flights from the Republic to Bali were cancelled yesterday.

The Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) warned, however, that a significant increase in volcanic activity and a change in the direction of upper-level winds could blow ash from Mount Agung to Singapore, and it will continue to monitor the situation.

Meanwhile, Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport is set to open today, after closing yesterday due to the eruption. It said 445 flights - 196 international and 249 domestic - and 59,000 passengers had been affected, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had deployed a Crisis Response Team to Ngurah Rai International Airport to provide consular assistance to Singaporeans affected by the airport closure.

At Changi Airport yesterday, some travellers scrambled to make alternative plans. At Terminal 2, for instance, travellers booked on a cancelled Scoot flight to Bali tried to secure flights to other parts of South-east Asia for their holidays.

Housewife Alayspari Suppramayan, 55, who had planned to visit Bali for three days with her daughter and sister, said: "We were checking for updates over the weekend and came fully prepared for things to be cancelled. We've been in four different queues in two hours."

She and her companions were put on a noon flight to Bangkok.

It was a different scene at Changi Airport's Terminal 3, where a 11.50am Garuda Indonesia flight to Bali was cancelled. Check-in counters were empty. A counter staff member said a notice was sent at 7am yesterday to inform passengers of the cancellation. Passengers were rebooked on the next available flight, or allowed to request a full refund from Garuda.

Singapore Airlines (SIA), which also cancelled several flights, said customers scheduled to travel to Denpasar in Bali between Nov 27 and Dec 4 this year, with tickets issued on or before Nov 27, may contact their nearest SIA ticket office if they would like to rebook their flight or request a refund. The new travel date must commence on or before Jan 31 next year.

At 8am yesterday, Changi Airport Group put up a post on Facebook to advise passengers to check its website - changiairport.com - or its iChangi app for flight updates. Passengers may also go to their respective airlines for updates, it added.

Mr Daniel Kent, 23, an admissions officer at Yale-NUS College, was among those who were supposed to return to Singapore from Bali yesterday.

"The whole airport was shut down and the airline I'm on - Scoot - said they will reassess the situation tomorrow," he said. "They said they will work with us to rebook flights, but I haven't heard anything else so far and the phone lines are all jammed up."

Last week, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Singaporeans to defer non-essential travel to affected areas of Bali.

The MSS said Singapore is not affected by the kind of hazards that accompany regional volcanic eruptions. However, when eruptions are sufficiently large and winds are blowing towards Singapore, ash emissions can affect air quality here.

Such occasions are rare, and the last documented case was the eruption of Mount Pinatubo on Luzon island in the Philippines in June 1991. At the time, air quality went into the moderate or unhealthy range for three days.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2017, with the headline 'Ash unlikely to affect S'pore for now: Experts'. Print Edition | Subscribe