The volcano, Mount Raung, in East Java, Indonesia, started spewing ash into the air about a week ago, leaving tourists and residents in Bali and elsewhere stranded in multiple airports.
Denpasar airport in Bali is shuttered according to the BBC, and it’s still not clear when the gateway to the tourist destination will be open again. A spokesman for the Angkasa Pura airport operator said the airport will open at 21:30 local time, but the Indonesian transport ministry insists that it all depends on the situation on the volcano 150 km away.
The volcanic eruption on Mount Raung isn’t explosive, but the slow spewing of ash is still dangerous for airplanes. The ash can melt and coat the inside of airplane engines bringing them to a dead halt mid-air. Raung volcano is particularly harmful because the mountain’s summit is at a high altitude (10,800 feet).
As a result, CNN reports four airports in Lombok, Banyuwangi, Bali, and Jember have been closed with the airlines Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Garuda Indonesia affected and 250 flights cancelled.
“There’s basically just hundreds of people camped out on the grassy lawns in front of the airport. There’s lines of hundreds of people waiting to talk to customer service.”
The volcano is drawing comparisons to the Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland, which led to the cancellation of thousands of flights across Europe. Indonesia has its own flight-disrupting volcanoes including Mount Sangeang Api, which also left thousands stranded in the town of Darwin in May.
Bali is Indonesia’s premiere tourist location, especially popular to Australian tourists. With the summer season in full swing, and Muslim residents trying to return after the Ramadan holiday, Mount Raung couldn’t have chosen a worse time to erupt.
Airlines are attempting to compensate for the enormous backlog of passengers, but some, like Victoria Welsby, don’t have an outbound ticket for at least the next ten days. Virgin Australia issued a press release promising extra flights to and from Bali.
“Once conditions improve, additional flights will be scheduled between Australia and Denpasar to ensure we can have guests on their way as soon as possible.”
Despite the chaos at the airports, the volcano has some silver linings. Authorities were not required to issue any evacuation orders for people in the danger zone around the volcano, and there are no reported injuries or deaths in Bali.
[Image Credit: Getty Images]