Mt. Agung on Bali continues to erupt, spewing ash miles into the sky and forcing the extended closure of Bali’s Denpasar International Airport.
The volcano’s activity since tremors last week prompted officials to raise the alert level to its highest for the second time in two months has stranded tens of thousands of travelers on what is usually viewed as an island paradise.
More than 440 flights were canceled on Tuesday, Nov. 28, according to ABC News, affecting some 60,000 passengers—the same number stranded by cancellations the day before, according to airport spokesman Ari Ahsanurrohim.
According to the UK’s Daily Mail, a total of some 900 flights have been canceled and some 120,000 tourists stranded. Some travelers have been told that the next available flights might not depart until after Christmas.
Time lapse Mount Agung eruption. 28 November 2017 06.38 – 07.09 WITA (GMT+8) pic.twitter.com/RpJo66SpHg
— MAGMA Indonesia (@id_magma) November 28, 2017
Airport officials are afraid the thick volcanic ash could choke jet engines. Island authorities are also worried about the volcanic activity itself: a series of explosive eruptions in 1963 killed 1,100 people, according to VolcanoCafe.org.
A six mile-radius around the volcano has been ordered evacuated, leaving around 100,000 people temporarily homeless.
Experts say that the volcano could continue at its present level of activity for weeks—or could erupt explosively.
“If it got much worse, it would be really hard to think of. You’ve got a huge population center, nearly a million people in Denpasar and surroundings, and it’s very difficult to envision moving those people further away,” Richard Arculus, a volcano expert at Australian National University, told ABC News.
NASA’s Modis satellite detected a “thermal anomaly” on the night of Nov. 27, suggesting that a magma chamber had broken open, giving the molten rock access to the surface.
Malam ini, anomali termal untuk pertama kalinya terdeteksi di kawah Gunung Agung oleh satelit NASA Modis, power sekitar 70 Megawatt (sumber: mirovaweb.it). Ini menandakan bahwa magma dengan volume signifikan sudah berada di permukaan. pic.twitter.com/U6uIEDkFVu
— MAGMA Indonesia (@id_magma) November 27, 2017
“It means that there’s a direct conduit from the magma storage chambers in the crust up to the surface,” volcanologist Richard Arculus told The Associated Press. “What stops most eruptions from happening is that you don’t have a conduit from where the magma’s reached, to the surface. Once you’ve got that opened …. it means there’s easier access for the magma upward out into the open.”
Take a Boat or Take a Chance
Stranded travelers have few choices. BBC reports that the airport on nearby Lombok island has re-opened. Indonesia’s Directorate General of Land Transportation was arranging buses to ferry terminals for travelers who choose that option, AP reported. Travelers could also take a ferry to Java and travel by land to one of Java’s airports.
Otherwise, tourists have little choice but to stay on the island and see what happens. The volcano is about 40 miles from the most popular tourist areas and the airport.
“I don’t know, we can’t change it,” German traveler Gina Camp told ABC News. Camp had decided her best bet was to relax and enjoy another day on the island. “It’s nature and we have to wait until it’s over.”
Others were considerably less calm about the situation.
‘My kids are really upset. They’ve been crying on the phone because they’ve seen reports on the TV news and are worried about us,” David Plowman of Perth, Australia, told Daily Mail.
Would you try to escape by boat or would you enjoy more vacation time on Bali? Who should foot the bill for travelers stranded by the eruption?
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