Bali airport reopens as Mount Agung ash cloud shifts

Officials reopened the Bali international airport on Wednesday, the airport spokesman said, as the ash cloud moves away from the transport hub.

The news comes as a relief for almost 120,000 tourists stranded on the popular Indonesian island.

However, airport officials warned that flights might be halted again if winds change direction, as engines could choke on ash from the smoking Mount Agung volcano.

About 900 flights have been canceled since Monday.

Light from lava inside the Mount Agung crater

Mount Agung is throwing ash into the atmosphere

Previously, authorities raised alert levels to maximum and accelerated the mass evacuation of people living near Mount Agung, the tallest mountain in Bali. Villagers reported mudflows running down the volcano and reported sounds coming from it.

When the volcano first 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, dj/sms (AFP, Reuters)