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Bali airport reopens after days of closure due to ash cloud: official

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Indonesian authorities reopened the international airport on the holiday hotspot of Bali on Saturday, an official said, after it was shut for days due to drifting ash from a volcano.

[JAKARTA] Indonesian authorities reopened the international airport on the holiday hotspot of Bali on Saturday, an official said, after it was shut for days due to drifting ash from a volcano.

It was not immediately clear, however, when flights would resume at Ngurah Rai International Airport, where thousands of holidaymakers have been stranded since Thursday when drifting ash from Mount Raung on Java forced its closure.

Indonesia's transport ministry had ordered the closure of the airport at Bali and two other domestic terminals until at least midday Saturday (0400 GMT) so that a fresh assessment of the risk posed by the volcano could be carried out.

But it was reopened Saturday morning after the situation was deemed "clear", ministry spokesman J. A. Barata told AFP.

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"The airport is open now in Bali," he said, but added that it was not clear when flights would resume.

Two domestic terminals on the island of Java closer to Mount Raung remained shut, he said.

Indonesian flag carrier Garuda earlier announced it would be cancelling 31 flights Saturday, with AirAsia also confirming nearly a dozen flights would be cancelled or rescheduled.

The closure of Bali's airport saw 330 flights cancelled Friday and chaotic scenes at the terminal as hundreds of passengers milled about anxiously.

Australian carriers Virgin Australia and Jetstar began cancelling flights earlier than other airlines, and had already axed a number of services in recent days even before Bali airport was fully closed.

The travel chaos came at a busy time in Bali, with many Australians visiting the island during the school break and millions of Indonesians setting off on holiday ahead of the Muslim celebration of Eid next week.

Authorities raised the alert status of Mount Raung, a 3,300m volcano, late last month to the second highest level after it began to spew lava and ash high into the air.

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, with around 130.

Two airports, including an international terminal, on the island of Lombok which closed due to the ash cloud were reopened Friday.

AFP

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