Mount Agung eruption: Mother-daughter pair make 'awful' 20-hour journey from Bali to Surabaya

Ms Rukzana Hamid and her daughter Nur Humairah in Surabaya airport. PHOTO: COURTESY OF RUZANA HAMID

SINGAPORE - After waiting close to 20 hours at Surabaya's Juanda International Airport, a Singaporean mother-daughter pair finally boarded a 2.5 hour Scoot flight for Singapore, at 8pm Indonesian time.

Ms Rukzana Hamid, 36, and her 15-year-old daughter, Nur Humairah, had been caught up in the chaos that followed the eruption of Bali's Mount Agung.

They were on the island for a holiday to help the teenager unwind before her O levels next year.

But the temporary closure of Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, 60km from the volcano, meant they had to make a gruelling journey from the island to Surabaya to try to get a flight back to Singapore.

They had to contend with traffic jams caused by flooding as well as a 10½-hour car ride with no toilet breaks and no sleep for Ms Rukzana.

The pair had been on holiday since Nov 24 and were initially scheduled to return to Singapore on Nov 29 on a Scoot flight. But the Bali airport was closed on Monday and Tuesday, and reopened only on Wednesday.

Ms Rukzana said: "Scoot told us that they were clearing the backlog of passengers from Monday and Tuesday and could not put us on a flight from Bali to Singapore anytime soon."

She added that they were told that it would be better at Surabaya airport so they got the Scoot staff in Bali to arrange for another flight with their counterparts in Surabaya.

Ms Rukzana arranged for her own private transport to Surabaya, which is on Java Island. She had heard that two coaches headed for Surabaya had broken down in the jungle.

"It's very dangerous for two females to get stuck in the middle of a jungle," she said, adding that this was an option many also took.

The car journey cost her $300 and comprised a four-hour ride to the Gilimanuk ferry terminal.

What followed was a one-hour ferry ride and then a non-stop 10½-hour journey to Surabaya on a bumpy road.

They reached Surabaya airport in the early hours of Thursday.

She said: "I have not slept or showered. It was just the two of us on the road, I wanted to keep watch and make sure the driver didn't go off-route."

There was some chaos at the Surabaya Juanda International Airport, but most Singaporeans have been helping one another.

She said: "The Singaporeans are tired and frustrated but we are trying to do the right thing. There is a consensus among us to keep things calm.

"We have exchanged numbers with each other to keep each other updated on the flight situation when we go for toilet or coffee breaks."

Scoot said that due to overwhelming demand, some of its passengers who arrived in Surabaya via its coaches were unable to be accommodated on a return flight on Thursday morning. The airline then arranged for an additional flight in Surabaya in the afternoon.

Mount Agung has been spitting ash into the air and blocking flight paths. Some experts have warned that this could go on for weeks before a major eruption takes place.

Lawyer Jagjit Singh Gill, 45, who had booked a family holiday to Bali in mid-December, said: "We have to wait and see. We are worried that we might get stranded."

He added that airlines should continue to allow holiday-makers to re-book their flights to other destinations for upcoming trips.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.