Thousands of travellers stranded on Bali as Mount Agung spews ash

Mount Agung
Bali’s Mount Agung today. Picture via YouTube

Tens of thousands of travellers are trapped in Bali after volcanic activity forced the island’s airport to close. Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of ash up to 10,000 feet since the weekend.

Video released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency today (Monday, November 27) showed volcanic debris and water known as a lahar moving down the volcano’s slopes.

The volcano’s last major eruption in 1963 killed more than a thousand people.

The agency raised the volcano’s alert to the highest level early this morning and expanded the danger zone to six miles. It has also warned that a larger eruption is possible.

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta that the extension of the danger zone affects up to 100,000 people.

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He said about 40,000 people had already evacuated, but others had refused to leave.

“Authorities will comb the area to persuade them,” he said. “If needed we will forcibly evacuate them.” A

bout 25,000 people were already living in evacuation centres after an increase in tremors from the mountain sparked an evacuation in September.

The island’s airport was closed early this morning after ash reached its airspace.

An airport spokesman said 445 flights had been canceled, stranding nearly 60,000 travellers. The closure will be reviewed every six hours.

 

Indonesian Tourism Minister Arief Yahya has called on hotels to offer a 50 per cent discount to stranded travellers. He has also urged airlines not to charge flight cancellation fees or rescheduling charges.

Meanwhile, the island’s own tourism office has offered a free additional night to people who were staying at an Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) premises last night.

Bali is Indonesia’s top tourist destination and attracts about five million visitors a year.

Indonesia sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and has more than 120 active volcanoes.

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