Erupting Bali volcano keeps airport closed

  • 29/11/2017

Indonesia has extended the closure of the airport on Bali as ash from a volcano swept the island, stranding thousands of tourists as authorities tried to persuade villagers to leave their homes near the erupting mountain.

"Aircraft flight channels are covered with volcanic ash," the transport ministry said in a statement, citing aviation navigation authorities.

Bali's airport, about 60km from the Mt Agung volcano, will be closed until 7am local time Wednesday (1100 AEDT), it said.

Frustrations at Indonesia's second-busiest airport were starting to boil over, with an estimated 2,000 people attempting to get refunds and reschedule tickets.

"There are thousands of people stranded here at the airport," said Nitin Sheth, a tourist from India.

"They have to go to some other airport and they are trying to do that, but the government or authorities here are not helping."

Others were more relaxed.

"No, there's not a lot of information ... very little. [But] it's all right. We're on holidays so it doesn't matter. We don't know what's going to happen but we can get back to the bar and have another drink," said Matthew Radix from Perth.

Ten alternative airports have been prepared for airlines to divert inbound flights, including in neighbouring province.

The airport on Lombok Island, to the east of Bali, had been reopened, authorities said, as wind blew ash westward, toward the southern coast of Java island.

Mt Agung towers over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 metres.

On Tuesday, however, life went on largely as normal in villages surrounding Mt Agung, with residents offering prayers as the volcano sent columns of ash and smoke into the sky.

On Monday, authorities said 100,000 residents living near the volcano had been ordered to get out of an 8-10km exclusion zone, warning a larger eruption was "imminent".

While the population in the area has been estimated at anywhere between 63,000 and 140,000, just over 29,000 people were registered at emergency centres, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the Disaster Mitigation Agency.