A cloud of volcanic ash has closed Indonesia’s main tourist airport in Bali, canceling hundreds of flights and stranding passengers including India’s vice president on the island.
Authorities have shut Ngurah Rai airport in Bali until Thursday due to the eruption of Mount Rinjani on neighboring Lombok island, the country’s weather agency said Wednesday. The closure caused 692 domestic and international flights to be canceled, website Kompas reported, citing the head of the local airport authority Yusfandri Gona.
Indonesian flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia declared force majeure, halting all flights to and from Bali, Lombok and Banyuwangi in eastern Java, while Jetstar Asia and Virgin Australia also stopped routes from Australia. The closure, which follows flight cancellations to Bali in July and August during an eruption by Mount Raung on Java, is a setback for Indonesia’s efforts to attract 10 million visitors this year to help the economy.
“The impact will be significant to the central government’s target,” Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, said by phone. “When Mount Raung erupted we lost 30 percent from Australian market. I hope this won’t be worse than Mount Raung."
Known for its beaches, surf, culture and nightlife, Bali accounts for about 40 percent of foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia. Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari was stranded on the island when his flight was canceled as the airport closed, Kompas reported, citing the airport authority’s Gona.