Indonesian authorities reopened the international airport at Bali on Wednesday afternoon, after a three-day shutdown caused by an erupting volcano spewing ash over seven kilometres high, AFP reported.
“The airspace will be re-opened at 3 pm local time (1.30 pm IST), airport spokesperson Arie Ahsanurrohim told AFP. Unidentified officials, however, said they may shut down the airport again if winds change direction and the smoke and ash pose a risk to flights.
For now, the decision helps the 1,20,000 passengers who have been stranded at the airport for the past three days to find a way back home. More than 440 flights were cancelled on Tuesday, Ahsanurrohim said.
Indonesia has ordered the evacuation of 1,00,000 people living near Mount Agung. Nearly 30,000 people have already left the area since Mount Agung began erupting on Saturday.
The Indian Consulate in Bali has opened a help desk at the Ngurah Rai international airport for Indians stranded on the resort island. Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter she was in touch with Pradeep Rawat, the country’s ambassador to Indonesia, and the consulate in Bali.
Mount Agung had last erupted 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”, 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,” it said.