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Thu 30 Nov 2017 12:39 PM

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Emirates resumes limited service to volcano-hit Bali

Dubai airline restarts flights following a nearly three-day airport shutdown sparked by a rumbling volcano

Emirates resumes limited service to volcano-hit Bali
A fisherman drives a traditional boat as Mount Agung erupts seen from Kubu subdistrict in Karangasem Regency on Indonesias resort island of Bali. (SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Emirates has announced a limited resumption of flights to and from Bali following a nearly three-day airport shutdown sparked by a rumbling volcano on the Indonesian holiday island.

The Dubai airline said it planned to operate EK360 and EK361 on Thursday subject to the operational status of Bali/Denpasar International Airport.

It said Emirates passengers bound for Bali via Dubai, including those currently in Dubai International Airport, will be given the option to travel to a destination near to Bali or to an Indian Ocean or other Far East destinations on the Emirates network.

Alternatively, they can return to their original point of departure if they so choose. This applies to Emirates passengers who have booked tickets to Bali with departure dates up to December 4.

Thousands of foreign tourists were leaving Bali by plane Thursday.

The alert level on Mount Agung remains at maximum, but a change in wind direction blew towering columns of ash and smoke away from the airport, prompting authorities to re-open the island's main international gateway on Wednesday afternoon.

The move opened an eagerly awaited window for some of the 120,000 tourists stranded after the surge in volcanic activity grounded hundreds of flights, sparking travel chaos and forcing the evacuation of villagers living in its shadow.

Ash is dangerous for planes as it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

"Since the airport reopened yesterday, some flights have resumed operation and things are gradually getting back to normal," said airport spokesman Israwadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

More than 4,500 people have now flown out of Bali's main airport, authorities said, with around 3,200 of them on international flights.

Millions of tourists visit palm-fringed Bali annually. The majority are Chinese, followed by Australians, Indians, Britons and Japanese, according to the immigration office, which added that nearly 25,000 foreigners live on the small Hindu-majority island.

Tens of thousands of Balinese have already fled their homes around the volcano - which last erupted in 1963, killing around 1,600 people - but as many as 100,000 will likely be forced to leave in case of a full eruption, disaster agency officials have said.

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