Bali volcano shuts down flights, sends residents scurrying to safety

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Volcanic eruptions on the Indonesian resort island of Bali have prompted officials to cancel flights and move about 24,000 residents out of the way as a thick ash cloud from Mount Agung, thousands of meters high, drifts east and southeast along the archipelago.

Residents were evacuated from 224 points around the island while Lombok International Airport on Pulau Lombok, the island due east of Bali, has closed temporarily, said Ari Ahsan, spokesman for Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali.

At Ngurah Rai, Bali’s main airport, flight cancellations stranded roughly 7,000 domestic and international passengers, according to the airport’s latest report.

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation raised its aviation notice from an orange alert to a red one Sunday.

Mount Agung sent smoke rising thousands of meters into the air, shutting down flights.

The ash, which began spewing into the sky after Mount Agung in eastern Bali erupted three times Saturday, has reached heights of 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles), according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of information and data for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency.

The first eruption came around 5:30 p.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET) Saturday, Bali’s Regional Disaster Management Agency said. More eruptions followed and continued into Sunday, with a “medium-pressure eruption” in the early evening that sent ash 2,000 meters into the air, the agency said.

By late Saturday, the volcanic ash plume had reached an altitude of 7,600 meters (4.7 miles), according to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology.

Balinese Hindus pray near Mount Agung in hope of preventing a volcanic eruption Saturday.

The National Agency for Disaster Management issued a Level 3 alert, recommending no public activities within 6 to 7.5 kilometers (3.5 to 4.5 miles) from the peak. Anyone within that distance of the peak was advised to evacuate.

Ash fall was reported in the villages of North Duda, East Duda, Pempetan, Besakih, Sidemen, Tirta Abang, Sebudi, Bhuana Amerta in Klungkung and in some villages in Gianyar.

Masks are being distributed in Bali and Pulau Lombok.