Indonesia shuts down Bali airport as Agung volcano erupts

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BALI, JUNE 29,
The Indonesian tourist island of Bali closed its international airport on Friday, stranding thousands of travellers, as the Mount Agung volcano gushed a 2,500-metre column of ash and smoke. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said the airport closure began early Friday. It said nearly 450 flights were cancelled, affecting 75,000 people. The regional volcanic ash advisory centre in Darwin, Australia, said winds could carry the ash southwest toward Java, Indonesia’s most densely populated island. Volcanic ash is a potentially deadly threat to aircraft that can cause engines to “flame out.”The volcano began gushing smoke on Thursday. Its alert level has not been raised and an exclusion zone around the crater remains at 4 kilometres. Mt. Agung, about 70 kilometres northeast of Bali’s tourist hotspot of Kuta, last had a major eruption in the year 1963, killing about 1,100 people. It had a dramatic increase in activity last year, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, but had quietened by early this year. Authorities lowered its alert status from the highest level in February.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

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