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Mon 27 Nov 2017 10:17 AM

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Emirates suspends flights to Bali following volcanic eruption

Bali Airport shut as island authorities to evacuate some 100,000 people

Emirates suspends flights to Bali following volcanic eruption
Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted, prompting authorities to evacuate some 100,000 people and shut the airport in one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.

Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted, prompting authorities to evacuate some 100,000 people and shut the airport in one of the most popular tourist destinations in Asia.

The government has been relocating people from around Mount Agung’s crater as volcanologists warned of an imminent larger eruption. The volcano expelled ash clouds as high as 4,000 metres above the crater and residents as far as 12 kilometres away reported low explosive noises and flares, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said in a statement Monday.

Emirates, like all international airlines, has suspended all of its flights "until further notice" as Bali’s international airport, which remains closed until 7 am. local time on Tuesday.

The carrier, which operates a double daily to Bali/Denpasar (DPS), said its flight today (Nov 27) are cancelled, with transit passengers currently in Dubai offered alternative options. 

"Transit passengers bound for Bali/Denpasar who are currently in Dubai International Airport will be given the option to travel to the nearest destination CGK/Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, or to their original point of departure if they so choose," Emirates said. 

Emirates flight EK398, which due to depart from Dubai at 8.55am today, has been delayed by approximately 9 hours and is tentatively planned to depart from Dubai at 6pm (Dubai times). 

"These dates and times are provisional and subject to the operational status of Bali/Denpasar International Airport (DPS). Passengers are requested to check the website www.emirates.com for the latest flight timings," Emirates added.

Volcanic eruption and ash spreading across skies is dangerous for aircraft to fly through. In 2010, when Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted, carriers were forced to cancel more than 100,000 flights with about $1.7 billion in lost revenue.

“The big concern would be if this situation prolongs as we get into the year-end peak season,” said K Ajith, an analyst at UOB Kay Hian Pte. in Singapore. “For now, airlines can redeploy some of their capacity to other destinations like to Thailand.”

PT Garuda Indonesia, the national flag carrier, along with regional airlines scrapped flights to the island’s Ngurah Rai International Airport. The airlines have been monitoring the volcano since tremors increased in late September, prompting the disaster agency to raise its alert to the highest level. The Bali airport handles about 2,600 international flights a week, according to CAPA Centre for Aviation.

Countries including Singapore and Canada issued travel advisories for Bali. A prolonged eruption would risk disrupting an International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group meeting set to be held on the island next October.

The Indonesian archipelago is lined with volcanoes, and eruptions have often disrupted flights. A prolonged closure could pose a significant threat to Bali’s economy, which relies on tourism-driven hotels and restaurants for more than 20 percent of its gross domestic product. The island’s beaches, surfing, culture and nightlife make it among Asia’s most popular travel destinations, attracting about 3.4 million foreign visitors in January to July this year.

Mount Agung last blew up in 1963, throwing debris as high as 10 kilometres in the air, wrecking dozens of villages in a radius of about 7 kilometres and claiming more than 1,000 lives. Mudflows caused by heavy rainfall afterward killed an additional 200 people, and a second eruption three months later killed 200 more. Since then, the volcano has occasionally belched smoke and ash.

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