In recent weeks more than 400 flights to and from Bali were cancelled and up to 120,000 travellers were stranded. Some flights were cancelled until after Christmas. Travel disruptions rippled around the globe as the island is one of Asia’s top destinations, attracting five million visitors a year. December through the first week of January is one of the island’s busy periods.
Gushing ash has now dissipated into a wispy plume of steam, and Australian airlines that cancelled some flights to the Indonesian resort island on the weekend have returned to near-normal schedules. Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said Monday the volcano remains at its highest alert level but most of Bali is safe for tourists. The exclusion zone around the volcano still extends six miles from the crater in some directions.
Airlines Jetstar and Virgin Australia, which cancelled flights over the weekend even as the ash cloud shrank dramatically, said they were resuming services today. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising people to confirm their travel arrangements directly with their airline or travel agent. The region’s volcanic ash monitoring centre in Darwin, Australia, has stopped issuing advisories for Agung, reflecting that it’s currently posing no threat to aircraft. It would resume advisories if there’s another eruption. Indonesian government volcanologists say Agung’s crater is about one-third filled by lava and there is still a high risk of more eruptions. Officials had warned that an eruption of Mount Agung on the tourist island of Bali is imminent with the active volcano in a “critical” phase. Increasingly frequent tremors had been recorded amid a spike in volcanic activity. Around 1,000 tremors were detected each day, indicating a flow of molten rock to the surface.
Bali governor I Made Mangku Pastika declared a state of emergency. The fears prompted more than 140,000 people to flee the danger zone, around 45 miles from tourist resort Kuta. The observation post for Mount Agung witnessed the volcano emitting a small plume most likely of water vapour on September 29. But there was no ash cloud. A similar plume of steam was visible on October 19, when the volcano was hit by 1,052 small quakes. The National Disaster Management Authority for Indonesia had raised the volcanic alert level for Mount Agung to level 4, the highest level possible. This indicated an eruption was possible within 24 hours – but experts said it was impossible to say exactly when it would blow.
Senior seismologist Devy Kamil told the BBC: “There are some examples where you have swarms of activity for as long as six years… and it is not always ended by an eruption.” Indonesia’s Centre for Volcanology of Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) and the Geology Agency of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) warned all the signs said: “The potential for eruption is still high”.