Thousands of foreign tourists were expected to leave Bali by plane Thursday following a nearly three-day airport shutdown sparked by a rumbling volcano on the Indonesian holiday island.
The alert level on Mount Agung remains at the 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 raised hopes for some of the 120,000 tourists stranded after the surge in volcanic activity grounded hundreds of flights since Monday, 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 the airport, authorities said. Source: AFP