Bali Airport Reopens as Volcanic Danger Passes

Bali Airport Reopens as Volcanic Danger Passes  Bali Airport Reopens as Volcanic Danger Passes

Bali opened its international airport Friday after a volcanic eruption temporarily grounded flights, stranding thousands of tourists on the Indonesian holiday island.

Ngurah Rai airport began operating around 2:30 p.m. local time (07:30 GMT), about 12 hours after it closed in response to Mt. Agung belching smoke and ash, AFP reported.

Ash is dangerous for planes because it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

A change in wind direction pushed the ash away from Bali's international gateway, allowing flights to resume, an airport official said.

"The airport will operate for 24 hours straight to get flights back on schedule," he added.

The early morning closure sparked the cancellation of more than 300 flights to and from the tropical paradise with nearly 27,000 passengers affected, according to the airport.

About 400 local residents living near the rumbling volcano—about 75 kilometers from Bali's tourist hub of Kuta—moved to evacuation centers.

A striking orange-red glow could be seen at the top of Agung's crater after it shot plumes of thick smoke some 2,000 meters into the sky Thursday evening.

Authorities closed the airport after a pilot flying overhead detected traces of volcanic ash as high as 23,000 feet.

Thousands were stranded at the airport or nearby hotels Friday, but it was not immediately clear how many tourists were unable to leave the island.

Despite the eruption, Agung's status remained on alert level, the second highest danger warning.

There is a four-kilometer no-go zone around Agung's peak.

Agung has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life last year.

An eruption at Agung in November also stranded thousands and pounded Bali's lucrative tourism industry, the backbone of its economy.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

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