BANGKOK – Authorities in the Indonesian island of Bali raised on Sunday the flight warning level to the highest – from orange to red – as the Mt. Agung volcano continued to spew up to 4,000 meters high columns of ash, official sources said.
Around twenty flights to and from Bali, the main tourist destination in Indonesia that records around 200,000 foreign tourists annually, were canceled Saturday night, stranding more than 2000 people.
“The volcano and movement of ash cloud are highly unpredictable which means we may need to cancel flights at short notice,” Australian low-cost airline Jetstar said on its website.
On Sunday, Qantas and Jetstar had canceled two flights, while over a dozen were delayed.
Several domestic flights to the nearby island of Lombok were also delayed or canceled.
Low-cost carrier AirAsia had also announced Sunday the cancelation of 32 flights to and from the Indonesian islands of Bali and Lombok.
The Malaysia-based airline has also rescheduled another two flights and contacted the affected passengers via email to offer them a change of flight or route, the company said in a statement.
Indonesia’s flagship carrier Garuda also announced that it was canceling all flights on Sunday to and from Lombok.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that its flights to Bali continue to operate normally.
Meanwhile, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, director of information of the National Board for Disaster Management(BNBP), had said in a statement that the island was safe and the Gusti Ngurah Rai airport and the Lombok international airport were functioning as usual.
The BNBP had also retained the eruption alert level at 3 and warned of ash rain in at least seven localities on the island.
On Saturday night, Nugroho had urged local people and tourists to remain calm and guard against the effect of the ash rain, adding that an exclusion zone established around the crater continued to remain at a radius of 6-7.5 kilometers (3.7-4.7 miles).
The volcano, located in the eastern part of the island, in the Karangasem district, is away from a majority of the tourist attractions in Bali.
More than 25,000 residents of Karangasem district continue to be displaced owing to the eruption alert although the number had reached 140,000 at the end of September.
On Tuesday, the volcano had expelled a 700 meter high cloud of black vapor, the first non-magmatic discharge since 1963 and 1964, when the eruptions had lasted almost a year and caused more than 1,100 deaths.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region that records high seismic and volcanic activities, and experiences thousands of tremors – mostly moderate – every year.