Volcano closes Bali airport for second day as thousands left stranded

A volcano gushing towering columns of ash has closed the airport on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali for a second day, disrupting travel for tens of thousands of people.

Authorities have also renewed their warnings for villagers to evacuate, as Mount Agung continues hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) above its cone.

Lava is welling in the crater, sometimes reflected as an orange-red glow in the ash plumes. Its explosions can be heard about seven-and-a-half miles away.

The local airport authority said on Tuesday that the closure for another 24 hours was required for safety reasons.

Volcanic ash poses a deadly threat to aircraft, and ash from Agung is moving south-southwest towards the airport. Ash has reached a height of about 30,000 feet as it drifts across the island.

"I don't know, we can't change it," said stranded German tourist Gina Camp, sitting on a bench at the airport. "It's the nature and we have to wait until it's over."

She decided to look on the bright side, saying she planned to go back outside to enjoy another day on the island.

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the volcano's alert to the highest level on Monday and expanded an exclusion zone to six miles from the crater in places.

It said a larger eruption is possible, but a top government volcanologist has also said the volcano could continue for weeks at its current level of activity and not erupt explosively.

Agung's last major eruption in 1963 killed about 1,100 people.

Authorities have told 100,000 people to leave homes that are in close proximity to the volcano, but as of Monday tens of thousands had stayed because they felt safe or did not want to abandon livestock.

They have also warned people of the danger of mudflows from the volcano as it is now rainy season in Bali.

Volcanologist Erik Klemetti at Dennison University in Ohio said Agung's 1963 eruption was big enough to cool the earth slightly but it is unclear whether this time it will have a similar major eruption or simmer for a prolonged period.

"A lot of what will happen depends on the magma underneath and what it is doing now," he said.

The closure of the airport has stranded tens of thousands of travellers, affecting tourists already on Bali and people who were ready to fly to the island from abroad or within Indonesia.

Airport spokesman Ari Ahsanurrohim said more than 440 inward and outward flights were cancelled on Tuesday and about 59,500 travellers were affected, similar numbers to Monday.

Indonesia's Directorate General of Land Transportation said 100 buses were deployed to the airport and to ferry terminals to help travellers stranded by the eruption.

The agency's chief, Budi, said major ferry crossing points have been advised to prepare for a surge in passengers and vehicles. Stranded tourists could leave Bali by taking a ferry to Java and then travelling by land to the nearest airports.


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