Risk of Volcanic Ash Cancels Some Bali Flights

Airlines canceled more flights leaving the Indonesian island of Bali on Saturday, citing forecasts of deteriorating flying conditions because of a risk of volcanic ash from the erupting Mount Agung volcano.

A Bali airport spokesman said the airport was operating normally, but airlines such as Jetstar and Virgin Australia had opted to cancel some flights.

“Bali flying conditions expected to be clear throughout the day, but forecast for tonight has deteriorated so several flights have been canceled,” Australian budget airline Jetstar said on its Twitter account Saturday.

Thousands stranded

The erupting volcano had closed the airport for much of this week, stranding thousands of visitors from Australia, China and other countries, before the winds changed and flights resumed. 

Twenty flights were canceled Friday evening because of concerns over ash. Some airlines, including Malaysia’s AirAsia, have said they would only operate out of Bali during the day, because the ash could impair visibility at night and wind conditions in the area were unpredictable.

Airlines avoid flying through volcanic ash because it can damage aircraft engines, clogging fuel and cooling systems, hampering pilot visibility and even causing engine failure.

There are also concerns over changing weather conditions with a tropical cyclone south of Java island affecting weather and wind in the area, including for Bali, the Indonesian Meteorological, Climatological and Geophysics agency said.

Consulates offer aid

Several foreign consulates have set up booths in the international departures area to assist stranded passengers.

Subrata Sarkar, India’s vice consul in Bali, told Reuters at the airport’s international departure area that they had helped around 500 passengers so far this week.

“We have advised citizens the volcano may erupt. We never say ‘please don’t come.’ But we have issued travel advisories. If it’s urgent business, then OK, but if it’s only tourism, then plans should be reconsidered,” Sarkar said.

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