Mount Agung erupts on Indonesia’s Bali island, some flights canceled

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A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali has erupted for a second time in less than a week, spewing ash into the air and prompting nearby villages to evacuate, officials say. Some flights to and from Bali have been canceled.

The first eruption happened on Tuesday when the volcano sent an ash cloud into the air, but Saturday’s eruption was bigger and sent a plume of ash and steam at least 1,600 meters (5,250 feet) into the sky. The eruption continued on early Sunday morning.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said thick ash was falling on nearby communities on late Saturday evening. Authorities have urged people living in a radius of 6 to 7.5 kilometers (3.7 to 4.6 miles) to evacuate immediately.

Ngurah Rai International Airport, which is also known as Denpasar International Airport, was operating normally as of Saturday evening, but some airlines decided to cancel their flights as a precaution. At least 21 flights were canceled as of Saturday evening, leaving nearly 2,100 people stranded at the airport in Bali.

“Following an eruption of the Mount Agung volcano in Bali, Indonesia, it is not currently safe to operate flights around Denpasar Airport,” Jetstar Airways, which canceled at least 12 flights and delayed others, said in a statement. Three flights which were already en-route to Bali were forced to turn back to Australia.

Aviation experts say volcanic ash can result in an aircraft losing its engines. In 1982 and 1989, two Boeing aircraft lost all of their engines after flying through a thick cloud of volcanic ash, although both planes were able to land safely.

The region around Mount Agung has been on alert since late September when more than 140,000 people were told to evacuate over fears of an imminent eruption. No eruption took place and those evacuated were later allowed to return to their homes.

Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country in the world and sits on the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of fault lines circling the Pacific Basin. Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing nearly 1,600 people in one of Indonesia’s most devastating eruptions.

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