JAKARTA — Bali's international airport will remain closed until Friday due to ash erupting from a nearby volcano, Indonesian officials said, grounding hundreds of flights for a second consecutive day.
The Ngurah Rai International Airport on the resort island has been closed since late on Tuesday because of a large ash cloud drifting from Mount Rinjani, an active volcano on the nearby island of Lombok.
Authorities on Thursday confirmed Bali's major terminal would remain closed until at least Friday morning, leaving thousands of passengers in the lurch for another day, as they wait for conditions above the airport to improve.
"The closure of Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport... will be extended until approximately 07:45am (0045GMT) on Friday because of volcanic ash from Mt Rinjani," transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said.
Two airports on Lombok – including the international terminal – and a smaller airport on East Java that were all affected by the ash would also remain shut, he added.
Nearly 700 flights, including 320 international ones, were cancelled between Tuesday and Thursday due to the closure, airport manager Trikora Harjo said. He did not have an updated figure on how many more would be cancelled as a result of this latest decision.
Virgin Australia confirmed it had cancelled all flights for Thursday and Friday to and from Bali as a result of the "unsafe" flying conditions, while Jetstar scrapped its Denpasar-bound flights for Thursday and some for Friday.
Indonesian carrier Garuda also cancelled all flights for Thursday in the affected area, while AirAsia said as many as 67 flights to and from Bali would not be proceeding.
The mass cancellations spell travel chaos for thousands of stranded passengers in Bali, including India's Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, who wrapped up a state visit on Wednesday and was due to depart the holiday island until his flight was grounded.
The deportation of an Indian fugitive wanted in his home country for up to 20 murders has also been delayed, after the crime boss was arrested in Bali more than a week ago.
Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, with around 130. — AFP