Indonesia closes five airports as Mount Raung erupts

Five airports in Indonesia have been shut, including those in the tourist hotspot Bali, because of a volcanic eruption, transport officials say.

Mount Raung in East Java has been spewing ash into the air for nearly a week, obscuring visibility at Bali’s Denpasar airport.

For a second day, many flights between Bali and Australia have been cancelled, stranding travellers.

The island is a top holiday destination for Australians.

A spokesperson for state airport operator Angkasa Pura told BBC Indonesian that Denpasar would be closed until at least 21:30 local time (13:30 GMT).

However, Indonesian transport ministry official JA Barata said the re-opening of the airports would be based on the activity on Mount Raung, which is about 120km (75 miles) from Denpasar airport.

The four other affected airports are the International Airport in Lombok, Selaparang Airport also in Lombok, Blimbingsari Airport in Banyuwangi, East Java and Notohadinegoro Airport in Jember, East Java.

Scores of flights have been postponed indefinitely or cancelled by airlines, including Jetstar and Virgin Australia who have halted all flights in and out of Denpasar Airport.

Analysis: Chris Davies, Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin, Australia

This volcano has been erupting for about a week and it’s been streaming ash constantly.

It’s not an explosive eruption, just a constant stream and because the summit is so high it doesn’t take much ash to interfere with flights.

The most dangerous aspect for aviation is that modern jet engines pull in so much air and the ash concentrates in engines and turns into a kind of molten glass.

The ash melts, coats inside of the engine and affects fuel flow, so in the worst case scenario it can cause engines to shut off, like we say with the BA 009.

Travellers left stranded in Bali

The BBC’s Alice Budisatrijo in Jakarta says the airport closures could not have come at a worse time, as the islands are popular with foreign and domestic tourists in the middle of the school holiday season.

Indonesians are also starting to travel home for the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, so the disruption of flights to the smaller airports are being felt by many families, says our correspondent.

Victoria Welsby, from the UK, has been stranded at Denpasar airport since Thursday when her flight to Cairns was cancelled.
She told the BBC that she was “completely in limbo” and “cannot do anything more” after Jetstar put her on an outbound flight that is only leaving in 10 days.

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