Mt Agung ash shuts airport for second day in Bali

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International desk, November 28: Indonesian officials have shut the international airport in Bali for a second day, as Mount Agung spews volcanic ash into the atmosphere.Massive plumes of dark ash were seen reaching as high as 3km (2 miles) from the summit of the rumbling volcano, which began erupting last week.

Officials raised the alert to the highest level on Monday, fearing an imminent major eruption.

More than 100,000 people have been ordered to evacuate the vicinity.

Volcanic ash can damage aeroplane engines or even cause them to fail, and also clogs fuel and cooling systems. Pilot visibility can also be hampered.

The Transportation Ministry initially closed the Ngurah Rai airport on Monday morning for 24 hours, cancelling more than 400 flights and stranding 59,000 travellers.

On Tuesday, they announced they would extend the closure to Wednesday 07:00 local time (00:00 GMT).

The airport on neighbouring Lombok island however has been re-opened, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster agency.

Authorities have also arranged for buses to take tourists to ferry terminals.

The volcano is about 70km from the popular tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak.

The disaster agency said in a separate statement (in Indonesian) that as of Tuesday morning, the volcano was still emitting thick ash clouds and that “rays of flares from the glowing lava” were also observed overnight.

Besides ash, streams of rock mixed with water known as lahars have also been spotted flowing down from the mountain. Officials have warned people to stay away from them.

Thousands of villagers living within a 10km exclusion zone around the volcano are now in shelters.

But as of Monday, an estimated 40,000 people still remained in their homes, as some said they still felt safe while others did not want to leave their livestock.

Authorities have warned that they may forcibly evacuate people if they do not move to shelters soon.

Source: Agencies