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    Jul 23, 2015

    Bali airport forced to close yet again


    ASH spewing from a volcano closed the airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali yesterday for the third time this month, forcing the cancellation of flights and stranding tourists during the peak holiday season.

    Mount Raung, which has been rumbling for weeks on Indonesia's main island of Java, sent an ash cloud floating over Bali that closed Ngurah Rai International Airport, the Transport Ministry said.

    However, the shutdown was brief, with the airport reopening around two hours later as the ash was blown away.

    The ash also closed two small airports on Java serving domestic routes, and both remained shut yesterday afternoon.

    Volcanic ash from Raung had already closed the Bali airport twice this month, between July 9 and 12, forcing almost 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed, and creating a backlog that took days to clear.

    The closure of the airport in Bali, which attracts millions of visitors from around the world to its palm-fringed beaches every year, has come during one of the busiest times of the year for the tourist industry.

    The latest shutdown will also cause disruptions for domestic tourists, as millions are making their way back home after going away for last week's Muslim holiday of Eid.

    Australian airlines Virgin Australia and Jetstar said they were cancelling flights yesterday to and from Bali, a favourite holiday destination for Australians. It was not immediately clear how many flights had been cancelled by the new airport closure.

    Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika said Raung was shooting ash 3,000m into the air yesterday, and the wind was blowing it south-east towards Bali.

    Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which is home to the world's highest number of active volcanoes at around 130.

    The main concern for airlines regarding volcanic ash is not that it could affect visibility, but that it could damage aircraft engines.