Mt. Sinabung eruptions disrupt flights to N. Sumatra, Aceh

A number of airlines have postponed flights from Kuala Namu International Airport in Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra, to destinations in the province and Aceh due to thick volcanic ash emitting from Mount Sinabung.

Susi Air Sumatra region coordinator Rosindah said the flight stoppage to all destinations in North Sumatra and Aceh was temporary.

However, she stated she was unaware how long the airline would not be serving these routes.

"We cannot promise when we will resume operations. If Mt. Sinabung stops erupting, we will definitely fly," Rosindah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

She said the airline was afraid to fly all the routes while the volcanic eruption intensity remained high.

All Susi Air's routes in North Sumatra and Aceh, said Rosindah, were covered in volcanic ash.

"Every route to Simeuleu in Aceh, and Silangit, Aek Godang and Gunung Sitoli in North Sumatra, is currently covered in volcanic ash. We dare not fly before the situation is safe," added Rosindah.

Based on information obtained at Kuala Namu airport on Thursday, at least four other airlines postponed flights and one airline cancelled a flight landing at the airport.

A Jakarta-bound AirAsia flight was delayed from 7 a.m. to 12:50 p.m., a Garuda Indonesia flight to Jakarta was postponed from 8:35 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., an AirAsia flight to Batam, Riau Islands, was postponed from 8:50 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and an AirAsia flight to Penang, Malaysia, which was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. was rescheduled to 12 noon.

A Value Air flight from Singapore to Kuala Namu was cancelled due to thick volcanic ash.

Kuala Namu airport spokesman Dewandono Prasetyo said besides Susi Air, Value Air, Firefly and Wings Air had cancelled flights to Kuala Namu due to the volcanic ash.

Airlines afraid to fly all routes while Mt. Sinabung eruption intensity remains high Sinabung was still emitting pyroclastic clouds as far as 2,000 meters down the mountain and spewing ash as high as 2,000 meters on Friday "Value Air cancelled a departure from Singapore, Firefly failed to leave for Penang, and Wings Air cancelled its flight to Sibolga, North Sumatra, due to the impact of the eruption," Dewandono told the Post on Friday.

The continuing eruptions have also hit the tourism sector in Karo regency.

In related developments, the Karo regency administration reported Mt. Sinabung was still emitting pyroclastic clouds as far as 2,000 meters down the mountain and spewing ash as high as 2,000 meters on Friday morning.

The Karo regency administration stated that so far no casualties had been reported from the eruptions, which had been taking place from Oct. 5.

"There are no evacuees and residents are still in their own homes," said regency spokesman Jhonson Tarigan on Friday.

Kutagugung villager Usaha Sitepu said residents had been staying up outside their homes every night to monitor the situation. According to him, the volcanic activity had intensified in the past several days.

"We are waiting for instructions from the government. If we're told to evacuate, we will definitely leave, if not we will remain at home while monitoring the mountain," said Sitepu, who claimed he had just returned from six months in the shelter.

The volcano first erupted in September last year, killing at least 14 people and forcing thousands of others to flee their homes.

Many residents have returned home after taking shelter for more than one year.