Aviation

Eruptions shut major Indonesian airports

AFP / Hannah Edensor

Eruptions at two volcanoes yesterday caused closures at three Indonesian airports, including one serving the country’s second-largest city.

According to reports from The Associated Press, Mount Raung on the main island of Java blasted ash and debris up to 2000 metres into the sky, after rumbling for several weeks and causing a number of other Bali flights to be cancelled.

Transport Ministry spokesman Julius Adravida Barata said volcanic ash spewing from Raung blew close to the cities of Surabaya and Malang, forcing Juanda International and Abdurrahman Saleh airports, respectively, to close.

Indonesian flag carrier Garuda said it had cancelled 48 flights to and from Surabaya, but it was not immediately clear how many flights in total were axed at the airport.

Authorities ordered the closure of Juanda Airport near Surabaya between 1.30pm and 8.30pm (1030 AEST and 1730 AEST) due to increased activity from Mount Raung, which has been erupting violently in recent weeks, airport spokesman Liza Anindya said.

“The concern is that the ash might affect flights,” she said.

The closure came during peak holiday season in Indonesia, when people in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country flood out of cities and head to their home towns and villages to spend Eid with their families.

The second offender, Gamalama Mountain in eastern Indonesia, also erupted Thursday morning after months of quiet.

Thousands of tourists, including many Australians, were left stranded at the island’s Ngurah Rai airport and almost 900 flights were cancelled or delayed, according to airport officials.

The ministry said Sultan Babullah airport in Ternate, North Maluku’s province capital, was closed after Gamalama sent volcanic ash as high as 1500 metres into the sky.

According to Channel News Asiathe transport ministry said the airport at Surabaya and two others would stay closed until at least early Friday. The airports at Jember and Banyuwangi on Java, close to Mount Raung, would stay closed until at least Friday afternoon.

There was no immediate indication when the airport on Ternate might reopen.

The 3,300-metre (10,800-foot) Mount Raung volcano emits a column of ash and steam at dawn as seen from Jember district, located in eastern Java island on July 12, 2015. Ash spewing from the Indonesian volcano closed the airport again on neighbouring Bali on July 12 just a day after it reopened, causing fresh travel chaos for weary holidaymakers stranded on the resort island. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
The 3,300-metre (10,800-foot) Mount Raung volcano emits a column of ash and steam at dawn as seen from Jember district, located in eastern Java island on July 12, 2015. Ash spewing from the Indonesian volcano closed the airport again on neighbouring Bali on July 12 just a day after it reopened, causing fresh travel chaos for weary holidaymakers stranded on the resort island. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images

The closures would be “updated continually to adjust to the developing situation related to the spread of volcanic ash from Mount Raung,” said a transport ministry statement.

An earlier eruption of Raung last week sparked chaos as Ngurah Rai airport in the tourist hotspot of Bali and four other airports in the region were shutdown, stranding thousands of holiday-goers.

Two domestic airports in East Java towns of Banyuwangi and Jember have been closed since then.

Volcanic ash is hazardous to jet engines and able to harm other parts of the aircraft.

The ongoing saga has people comparing it to the 2010 eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano, which produced an ash cloud that caused a week of international aviation chaos, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled.

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which is home to 130 active volcanoes.



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