Bali’s Mount Agung volcano threat keeps airport closed, tourists stranded

Thick volcanic ash has been moving across the Indonesian island and 100,000 tourists are stranded, unable to take flights out as the airport has been closed for a third day. About 900 flights have been cancelled since Monday.

“Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport will remain closed until at least Thursday morning,” spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim said on Wednesday.

Mount Agung is throwing ash into the atmosphere

Mount Agung is throwing ash into the atmosphere

The volcano alert status has been raised to its highest level and mudflows have been seen running down the mountain as villagers reported hearing sounds coming from the mountain. 

Authorities raised alert levels to maximum and accelerated the mass evacuation of people living near Mount Agung, the tallest mountain in Bali. When the volcano started to rumble in September, 140,000 people were forced to leave their homes. Some returned in late October as activity decreased but on Saturday smoke went into the air for the second time in a week. Residents have again moved to shelters.

A NASA satellite detected a thermal anomaly at the crater which means a pathway from the storage chamber in the volcano’s crust has opened, allowing the magma to access the surface more easily.

Cold lava from the volcano eruption has flowed into the surrounding region

Cold lava from the volcano eruption has flowed into the surrounding region

The last eruption occurred in February of 1963, and lasted almost a year, destroying a number of villages and killing 1,600 people.

Scientists are unsure about how big the eruption will be. Diana Roman, a geologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, told the Washington Post that scientists “do not have any basis for knowing whether this eruption will intensify, continue at its current level, or stop.”

The eruption may have effects on the Earth’s temperature. Global temperatures dropped by between 0.1C and 0.4C. after the last eruption fifty years ago.

jm/kl (AFP, Reuters)