Thousands flee as Bali volcano threatens to erupt


A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted on Saturday for the second time in less than a week, spewing a cloud of ash and halting some worldwide flights.

"Following an eruption of the Mount Agung volcano in Bali, Indonesia, it is not now safe to operate flights around Denpasar Airport", the airline said in a statement.

Saturday's eruption started at 5.30pm local time and went on for some time, with ash going up 1.5km and being blown southwest, carried by the current wind direction trend, BNPB spokesman Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement.

The latest activity created a bigger ash cloud than the initial episode on Tuesday, officials said. After that eruption, Singapore had updated its travel advisory for the island, warning that ash clouds could "severely disrupt air travel".

Sutopo said that in total, eight global flights to Bali and 13 worldwide flights departing from Bali were cancelled.

"Tactical guidance for departure and arrival aircraft has been applied".

These included flights operated by KLM, Qantas, AirAsia, and Virgin. "This hasn't endangered any flights", he said.

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Bali, famous for its surf, beaches and temples, attracted almost 5 million visitors a year ago, but business has slumped in areas around the volcano since September when Agung's volcanic tremors began to increase.

When it last erupted in 1963 it killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed several villages.

Mount Agung is one of 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia, a vast archipelagic nation with 17,500 islands.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

Authorities have kept Mt Aung's emergency status at level 3.

Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island has been active since 2013 and is now at its highest alert level.