DENPASAR, INDONESIA // Ash spewing from an Indonesian volcano closed Bali airport again on Sunday, just a day after it reopened.
The closure caused fresh travel chaos for weary holidaymakers stranded on the holiday island.
Mount Raung on the main island of Java has been erupting for weeks, and on Thursday a cloud of drifting ash forced the closure of Bali airport and four others during the peak holiday season.
The airport at Bali, a top international holiday destination that attracts millions of foreign tourists every year, reopened on Saturday as the ash drifted away, allowing some passengers to board flights home and others to arrive.
But on Sunday morning, the transport ministry announced wind had once again pushed the cloud over the resort island and that the airport was being closed again until at least 4pm local time.
“We will continue to monitor developments and decide if the closure will be extended later,” transport ministry spokesman JA Barata said.
Many passengers were surprised when the new closure was announced.
“Someone just said the airport was closed for at least six hours ... gotta be kidding,” tweeted one stranded tourist, Steve Dunthorne.
“Standing in queue for check-in like a lemon. Staff look as confused as passengers,” he added.
Indonesian passenger Dwi Anggoro had already checked in for his flight to the central Java city of Yogyakarta when the announcement was made.
“Instead of going back, I’ll just stay here and wait for developments,” he told Metrotvnews.com website.
Another airport on Java serving domestic routes was also closed, he said.
Three other airports that were closed on Thursday, including the international airport on popular Lombok island, east of Bali, are now open.
Australian carriers Jetstar and Virgin said they were cancelling some flights to Bali on Sunday, while Indonesian flag carrier Garuda confirmed all its flights would be grounded until 4pm.
The disruption comes as many Australians were heading home after spending the school break in Bali and as millions of Indonesian tourists were setting off on holiday ahead of the Muslim celebration of Eid next week.
The closure has caused chaotic scenes at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport, with thousands of stranded holidaymakers packing out the terminals, anxiously staring at the departure boards, and sitting and sleeping on the floor.
Indonesian government volcanologist Gede Suantika said that Mount Raung continued erupting on Sunday, spewing ash up to 1,000 metres into the air.
“Our observation this morning showed that the winds had pushed the ash in a south-easterly direction towards Bali again,” he added.
Australia’s volcanic ash advisory centre said winds were expected to blow the ash cloud away from the airport overnight or on Monday.
Authorities raised the alert status of Mount Raung, a 3,300-metre volcano, late last month to the second highest level after it began to spew lava and ash high into the air.
* Agence France-Presse