Indonesia orders new Bali airport closure due to volcano

Indonesia orders new Bali airport closure due to volcano
A farmer carries harvested produce while Mount Raung volcano emits steam and ash as seen in the background from Banyuwangi, located in Indonesia's eastern Java island, on July 23, 2015
PHOTO: AFP

DENPASAR, Indonesia - Indonesian authorities ordered a fresh shutdown of the airport on the resort island of Bali Thursday, sparking flight cancellations and travel misery for tourists during peak holiday season.

Transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said Ngurah Rai airport would be closed for several hours from midday (0400 GMT) due to ash drifting from Mount Raung, on Indonesia's main Java island.

Australian carriers Jetstar and Virgin Australia announced they were cancelling flights in and out of Bali Thursday, a popular holiday destination that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year.

The closure was the fourth shutdown of Bali airport in recent weeks due to the volcano, which has been spewing ash and lava high into the air since late June.

The disruption has come during peak holiday season, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

The most serious period was between July 9 and 12, when two closures forced almost 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed and created a backlog that took days to clear.

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika told AFP that the volcano was Thursday shooting out ash clouds that were larger than those it had recently been emitting.

"The volcano normally shoots out ash 700 (2,300 feet) to 800 metres but it's around 1,000 metres today," he said.

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, around 130.

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