Normally when the island of Bali in Indonesia is mentioned, the first thought to come to mind is that it’s a globally popular resort destination in Southeast Asia. But beyond the scenic sights and sounds there is also an undercurrent of natural danger. There are two active volcanoes on the island, Mount Batur and Mount Agung. The latter has been making its presence felt to the Balinese this year as far back as August. In late November this finally escalated into a phreatic and then magmatic eruption, causing lahar flows and ash plumes that darkened local skies, wreaking havoc on flight schedules.
The New Daily.au reports that as of noon on Friday, December 1, several major airlines such as JetStar and Qantas with flights going out of Bali’s Ngurah Rai/Denpasar International Airport have cancelled in light of forecast changes described as being “sudden” with regards to aerial visibility due to the ongoing volcanic activity of Mt. Agung. According to a statement by JetStar, while flights on Friday morning and afternoon are good as written off, their pilots at the airport will make new assessments with the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre tonight and tomorrow morning on Saturday, to make a new updated schedule of outgoing flights.
This comes as a new spate of bad news for about 4,300 Australian travelers currently stuck at Bali due to bad weather conditions on account of the Agung eruption. They had been hoping to take advantage of a planned 10 scheduled flights and eight emergency relief flights put together by Qantas and JetStar for this Friday, all of which were wiped out by the two airlines’ cancellation announcements. The various flights would have arrived at destination airports in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns.
For many of the stranded Australians, this means another evening spent sleeping at the airport in “unpleasant” hot and steamy conditions. Lucky indeed are those travelers who managed to board return flights on Thursday for arrivals at Perth in the afternoon, and Melbourne and Sydney later that night. The best hope those who remain have lies with Virgin Australia, which had announced on their website during Friday morning (AEST) that they will fly three recovery flights from Bali’s Denpasar before the day is out. According to their traffic alert statement, some of these relief flights might need to perform fuel stops on the way back to Australia.
And of course, all airlines involved have thus far cancelled any flights from Australia to Bali until further notice. JetStar notes the continuing unpredictability of Mount Agung’s eruption, such that any aircraft that do make the trip to the Indonesia island are merely being ferried there to be used as relief flights when conditions permit.
Photo courtesy of The Sun