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Volcanic ash keeps Bali airport shut


Volcanic ash keeps Bali airport shut

Indonesian officials have shut the international airport in Bali for a second day, as Mount Agung spews volcanic ash into the atmosphere. Massive plumes of dark ash were seen reaching as high as 3km (2 miles) above the summit of the rumbling volcano, which began erupting last week.

Officials raised the alert to the highest level on Monday (Nov 27), fearing an imminent major eruption. Up to 100,000 people have been ordered to evacuate the vicinity.

Volcanic ash can damage aeroplane engines or even cause them to fail, and also clogs fuel and cooling systems. Pilot visibility can also be hampered.

The Transportation Ministry initially closed the Ngurah Rai (Denpasar) airport on Monday morning for 24 hours, cancelling more than 400 flights and stranding 59,000 travellers.

On Tuesday, they announced they would extend the closure to Wednesday 07:00 local time (00:00 GMT).

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia's national disaster agency, said that the ash was being drawn southwest - towards Bali's main airport - by a tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean.

The airport on neighbouring Lombok island however has been re-opened, he added. Authorities have also arranged for buses to take tourists to ferry terminals. The volcano is about 70km from the popular tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak.

The disaster agency said in a separate statement (in Indonesian) that as of Tuesday morning, the volcano was still emitting thick ash clouds and that "rays of flares from the glowing lava" were also observed overnight.

Besides ash, streams of rock mixed with water known as lahar have also been spotted flowing down from the mountain. Officials have warned people to stay away from them. Officials have told everyone living in a 10km exclusion zone around the volcano to evacuate.

- Source: BBC News

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