Ash blankets villages, flights cancelled after Bali volcano erupts

Increased volcanic activity

A volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali sent ash up to 4,000m into the air yesterday in the most powerful series of eruptions so far, triggering flight disruptions and leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

A spokesman for Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency said the ash cloud was not affecting Denpasar's flight paths and stated that it was still safe to fly in and out of the airport.

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing over 1,600 people, and has been threatening another major eruption since August.

According to media reports, an estimated 25,000 people still live in temporary shelters after increased volcanic activity prompted fears of a major eruption forcing 140,000 local residents to flee the area.

"As a result we have cancelled flights to and from Bali this evening".

At least four airlines - Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia AirAsia, Jetstar Australia, Thai Lion Air and Virgin Australia - cancelled a total of 43 flights Sunday.

Mount Agung
YOUTUBEMount Agung emitted a thick plume of smoke reaching 4,000m

The Mt. Agung volcano, which towers over eastern Bali at a height of just over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet), is about 70 kilometers (43 miles) from the island's main tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak.

An exclusion zone of 7.5km (4.5 miles) remains in place for those near the volcano, with authorities distributing masks to those in close proximity to smoke.

The ash cloud is said to be moving eastward from Bali towards the island of Lombok, and the main worldwide airport there has been closed entirely. Officials said that magma has now reached its surface.

At Ngurah Rai, Bali's main airport, flight cancellations stranded roughly 7,000 domestic and worldwide passengers, according to the airport's latest report.

"Tourism in Bali is still safe, except in the danger (zone) around Mount Agung", the agency said in a statement. Most left their homes in September, when authorities first warned that a major eruption was likely.

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