DENPASAR – International airlines including Jetstar and Qantas have resumed flights to and from Bali after the second eruption of Mt Agung in a week.
Most flights were cancelled overnight despite Indonesia’s disaster management authorities saying it was safe to fly to the Island.
“The volcano and movement of ash cloud are highly unpredictable and flights are subject to change at short notice based on assessment of safety to fly,” Jetstar said in a statement on its website.
Air Asia flights out of Perth airport have been departing as scheduled but flights out of other airports, including Darwin, have been cancelled.
Local residents have taken to social media this morning, posting photos of the large smoke plume which has prompted speculation about a major eruption.
The latest eruption is significantly stronger than last Tuesday’s eruption, with a cloud of steam and pulverised rock driven at least 1,500 metres above the volcano’s 3,000-metre peak.
There have been no new evacuations in Bali and a 6 kilometre exclusion zone around the volcano has not been extended.
Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar remained open on Saturday night but within two hours of the eruption, Jetstar cancelled or diverted four flights heading to Bali as well as five flights due to depart from the island.
Qantas, Virgin and Dutch airline KLM soon followed Jetstar’s lead in cancelling flights.
The pulverised rock contained in volcanic ash can cause significant damage to aircraft engines but airlines have different criteria about how close to ash clouds their planes can operate.
Indonesia’s Garuda and Air Asia were continuing to use Ngurah Rai airport.
A spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency said the ash cloud was not affecting Denpasar’s flight paths and stated that it was still safe to fly in and out of the airport.
About 30,000 evacuees from Mt Agung remain in temporary accommodation. Most of them left their homes in September, when authorities first warned that a major eruption was likely.
Disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in total, eight international flights to Bali and 13 international flights departing from Bali on Saturday night were cancelled.
He said about 2,000 people were stranded at the airport.