Bali raises alert to highest level as airport closure causes chaos for tourists

The alert for Bali’s Mount Agung has been raised to its the highest level, prompting the closure of the tourist island’s main airport amid fears of an imminent major eruption.

At least 445 flights were disrupted after the Indonesian volcano belched columns of ash into the sky, leaving 59,000 passengers tourists stranded.

a mountain with smoke coming out of it: <span>A view of the Mount Agung volcano erupting in Karangasem, Bali, on Monday. Credit: AP&nbsp;</span> © Provided by The Telegraph A view of the Mount Agung volcano erupting in Karangasem, Bali, on Monday. Credit: AP  The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Bali’s international airport had closed for 24 hours and authorities would consider reopening it on Tuesday after evaluating the situation.

The small international airport on the neighbouring island of Lombok had already been closed on Sunday after the plumes of ash had drifted east.

“Continuous ash puffs are sometimes accompanied by explosive eruptions accompanied by a weak sound of boom which sounds up to 12 km from the summit,” the National Board for Disaster Management wrote on Facebook.

<span>A bright red sky is seen from Besakih village of Karangasem regency, 7 kilometers from the erupted Mount Agung in Bali. Credit: Getty&nbsp;</span> © Provided by The Telegraph A bright red sky is seen from Besakih village of Karangasem regency, 7 kilometers from the erupted Mount Agung in Bali. Credit: Getty  “The rays of fire are increasingly observed in at night. This indicates the potential for a larger eruption is imminent.”

It said the status of the volcano had consequently been raised from Alert Level 3 to Awas (level 4) and urged people within 10km of the volcano to evacuate. Previously the exclusion zone around the volcano ranged between 6 and 7.5 kilometers.

a man standing in front of a cloudy sky: A villager looks at Mount Agung following a phreatic eruption in Rendang Village, Karangasem, Bali © REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo A villager looks at Mount Agung following a phreatic eruption in Rendang Village, Karangasem, Bali Geological agency head, Kasbani, who goes by one name, said the alert level was raised at 6 am on Monday because the volcano has shifted from steam-based eruptions to magmatic eruptions. However he said he was still not expecting a major eruption.

“We don’t expect a big eruption but we have to stay alert and anticipate,” he says.

A tourist takes a picture of the sun set near Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level, from Amed on the resort island of Bali © REUTERS/Darren Whiteside A tourist takes a picture of the sun set near Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level, from Amed on the resort island of Bali Indonesian and regional authorities had already heightened flight warnings around Mount Agung on Sunday as the volcano’s eruptions sent a plume of volcanic ash and steam more than 6,000 metres into the skies above the popular holiday island.

Ash covered roads, cars and buildings near the volcano in the northeast of the island, while scores of flights were cancelled and overnight a red glow of what appeared to be magma could be seen in photographs by Antara, the state news agency.

Video released by the national disaster agency showed a mudflow of volcanic debris and water known as a lahar moving down the volcano’s slopes.

a group of people around a tall building: <span>A tourist watches as Mount Agung volcano erupts at Lempuyang Temple in Karangasem, Bali&nbsp;Credit: Reuters</span> © Provided by The Telegraph A tourist watches as Mount Agung volcano erupts at Lempuyang Temple in Karangasem, Bali Credit: Reuters “Watch out for lahar floods (cold lava) around Mt Agung,” agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said network Twitter.

“Lahar floods have already occurred in several places on the slopes,” he added, referring to expectations of increased rain in the current wet season. He urged people to avoid nearby river areas.

“I’m very concerned because I left my house behind and I’m also worried about family,” said 36-year-old farmer Putu Suyasa, who fled with some of his relatives from a village eight kilometres away from the volcano.

a man standing in front of a building: A Balinese man sits as Mount Agung volcano erupts at Lempuyang Temple in Karangasem, Bali © REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo A Balinese man sits as Mount Agung volcano erupts at Lempuyang Temple in Karangasem, Bali National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho called for people to stay calm.

“As we have widened the exclusion zone, so the number of people evacuating will increase but we don’t have the latest data yet,” he told AFP.

“Most important is always to follow our instructions and keep calm,” he added.

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