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Indonesia volcanic ash closes Bali airport for third day

Mount Rinjani spews volcanic ash in East Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia on Nov 4 2015.

[DENPASAR] Authorities ordered Bali's main airport shut for a third day because of ash from a volcanic eruption, raising concerns of an impact on tourism arrivals to the Indonesian resort island.

Authorities shut Ngurah Rai airport on Tuesday evening due to the eruption of Mount Rinjani on neighboring Lombok island, and it will remain closed until at least Friday morning when an assessment will be made on conditions, the country's weather agency said Thursday.

Indonesian flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia declared force majeure, halting all flights to and from Bali, Lombok and Banyuwangi in eastern Java, while Jetstar Asia and Virgin Australia also stopped routes from Australia. The closure, which follows flight cancellations to Bali in July and August during an eruption by Mount Raung on Java, is a setback for Indonesia's efforts to attract 10 million visitors this year to help the economy.

"The impact will be significant to the central government's target," Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, said by phone. "When Mount Raung erupted we lost 30 percent from Australian market. I hope this won't be worse than Mount Raung." The closure had caused 692 domestic and international flights to be canceled by Wednesday, website Kompas reported, citing the head of the local airport authority Yusfandri Gona.

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Known for its beaches, surf, culture and nightlife, Bali accounts for about 40 percent of foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia. Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari was stranded on the island when his flight was canceled as the airport closed, Kompas reported, citing the airport authority's Gona. It was unclear whether he had managed to leave by Thursday.



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