Indonesian authorities on Tuesday announced that the Ngurah Rai international airport on the resort island of Bali would be closed for a second day over fears of an imminent volcanic eruption, Reuters reported.
According to local navigation authorities, aircraft routes were covered with volcanic ash, making it dangerous for flights, the government said. The airport closure has left more than 60,000 tourists, including many Indians, stranded on the island.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had on Monday said that she was personally monitoring the situation. The Indian Consulate in Bali has opened a help desk at the airport to help the Indians who are stuck there.
Bali airport, about 60 km from Mount Agung volcano, will be closed at least until 7 am local time on November 29, it said. Ten other airports have been prepared to divert inbound flights, the government added.
On Monday, authorities had ordered 1,00,000 residents living near the volcano to immediately evacuate and warned that an eruption was “imminent”. An 8-10 km exclusion zone has been imposed around the summit.
Mount Agung had erupted last in 1963, killing 1,600 people. The volcano started spewing ash again in September, forcing authorities to raise the alert to the highest level and 1,40,000 people living nearby to evacuate. By the end of October, the volcanic activity reduced, people returned to their homes and the alert was lowered to the second-highest level.
On November 21, Mount Agung rumbled again, forcing 25,000 people to seek shelter, but authorities did not raise the alert level till Monday morning, after the volcano started emitting “continuous ash puffs” accompanied by “explosive eruptions” and a “weak sound of boom”, the disaster management agency said in a statement on its Facebook page. “The rays of fire are increasingly observed at night. This indicates the potential for a larger eruption is imminent.”