Volcano gushing ash over Bali closes airport for 2nd day
KARANGASEM – The Associated Press
A volcano gushing towering columns of ash closed the airport on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali for a second day on Nov. 28, disrupting travel for tens of thousands, as authorities renewed their warnings for villagers to evacuate.
Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark gray ash about 4,000 meters high and lava is welling in its crater.
The local airport authority said its closure for another 24 hours was required for safety reasons. Volcanic ash poses a deadly threat to aircraft, and ash from Agung is moving south-southwest toward the airport. Ash has reached a height of about 9,000 meters as it drifts across the island.
Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the volcano's alert to the highest level on Nov. 27 and expanded an exclusion zone to 10 kilometers from the crater. It said a larger eruption is possible, though a government volcanologist has also said Agung could stay at its current level of activity for weeks and not erupt explosively.
NASA detected a thermal anomaly over the weekend, said Gede Swantika, a senior volcanologist in Bali.
"It means that there's a direct conduit from the magma storage chambers in the crust up to the surface," said Richard Arculus, a volcano expert at Australian National University. "What stops most eruptions from happening is that you don't have a conduit from where the magma's reached, to the surface. Once you've got that opened .... it means there's easier access for the magma upward out into the open."
Agung's last major eruption in 1963 killed about 1,100 people.
Authorities have told 100,000 people to leave homes nearest the volcano, though tens of thousands stayed because they felt safe or didn't want to abandon livestock. Mudflows have been seen on the mountain's slopes, and authorities warned more are possible, since it's the rainy season in Bali.
Volcanologist Erik Klemetti at Dennison University in Ohio said Agung's 1963 eruption was big enough to cool the Earth slightly but it's unclear whether this time it will have a similar major eruption or simmer for a prolonged period.
The closure of the airport has affected tourists already on Bali and people who were ready to fly to the island from abroad or within Indonesia. Airport spokesman Ari Ahsanurrohim said more than 440 inward and outward flights were canceled on Nov. 28 and about 59,500 travelers were affected, about the same number as on Nov. 27.
Bali is Indonesia's top tourist destination, with its Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior attracting about 5 million visitors a year.