A volcanic eruption in east Java, Indonesia has forced the closure of five airports, including on the holiday island of Bali, causing the cancellation of not less than 350 flights and stranding thousands of holidaymakers.
The closures came during peak holiday season in Bali, a pocket of Hinduism in Muslim-majority Indonesia which attracts millions of foreign tourists every year to its palm-fringed beaches.
Speaking to AFP media, an American expatriate living in Indonesia, Katie Nagar described the closure as “pretty chaotic”. She described arriving at the domestic terminal in Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport to discover her flight to Jakarta on Indonesian flag carrier Garuda had been cancelled and rescheduled to Sunday.
“There’s basically just hundreds of people camped out on the grassy lawns in front of the airport. There’s lines of hundreds of people waiting to talk to customer service.” She said.
It was gathered that about 1,000 people were stranded, with some trying to seek information from airport officials while others were sitting or sleeping on the floor.
Trikora Harjo, general manager at Ngurah Rai, said that 330 flights — 160 domestic and 170 international, had so far been cancelled at the airport due to the ash cloud.
“Right now the authorities have declared that the airport will be closed until 9:30 pm (1330 GMT), totally closed,” he said.
Government vulcanologist Surono, said the volcanic eruptions were producing flames and a thundering sound. But authorities said no evacuations were necessary as those living in the area were already a safe distance away.
Virgin Australia in a statement said: “our team of meteorologists continue to work closely with the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin and monitor the situation. Once conditions improve, additional flights will be scheduled between Australia and Denpasar to ensure we can have guests on their way as soon as possible.”
Mount Raung in East Java has been erupting for nearly a week, forcing the cancellation of a number of flights to and from Australia.