Canadians stuck in Bali as Mount Agung erupts, cancelling flights

Some Canadians are trapped in Bali after Indonesian authorities ordered 100,000 people to flee an erupting volcano that prompted the closure of the international airport.

Hundreds of Canadians registered on Indonesian island

Flights were cancelled at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali on Monday because of an erupting volcano that has left some Canadians trapped. (Ketut Nataan/Associated Press)

Some Canadians were trapped in Bali on Monday after Indonesian authorities ordered 100,000 people to flee an erupting volcano that prompted the closure of the international airport.

Global Affairs Canada said 403 Canadians in Bali have registered with its Registration of Canadians Abroad service.

"As registration is voluntary, this is not necessarily a complete picture of Canadians in the region," Global Affairs spokesperson Brianne Maxwell said in an email.

Mount Agung has been spewing clouds of white and dark grey ash about 3,000 metres above its cone since the weekend and lava is welling in the crater, sometimes reflected as an orange-red glow in the ash plumes. Its explosions can be heard about 12 kilometres away.

Ash threatens aircraft

The local airport authority said the closure for another 24 hours was required for safety reasons. Volcanic ash poses a deadly threat to aircraft, and ash from Agung is moving south-southwest toward the airport.

Richard Chang, a 31-year-old Canadian vacationing in the central part of the island with his fiancée and four friends, said his flight scheduled for Monday afternoon local time was cancelled.

The Mississauga, Ont.-native, who now lives in San Francisco, said they decided to move south to the area of Jimbaran to be close to the airport in case they need to make quick travel plans.

"We don't get the sense that the volcano is a danger to us," Chang said. "It's just the air traffic — there is a lot of ash and debris that is going into the air that is grounding flights."

10 km exclusion zone

Chang said arranging a flight from another airport has proven difficult, since many airlines fly out of Jakarta, about 26 hours by car or 15 hours by boat.

He said he has a flight scheduled for Wednesday with Taiwanese airline EVA Air, but said he doesn't expect the airport to be open by then.

"We're assuming that the chances of us getting back to work are pretty much zero," Chang said. "So we're looking at just trying to get back in the safest, most guaranteed way before the end of the week or over the weekend."

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the volcano's alert to the highest level Monday and expanded an exclusion zone to 10 kilometres from the crater in places from the previous 7½ kilometres. It said a larger eruption is possible, though a top government volcanologist has also said the volcano could continue for weeks at its current level of activity and not erupt explosively.

Stranded for a week

Agung's last major eruption in 1963 killed about 1,100 people.

Another Canadian stuck in Bali is Chantal Desjardins, a Montreal-based media personality and standup comic who was due to fly out Tuesday.

Desjardins said she was at a hotel about 70 kilometres away, and there was no word on evacuating her area.

She said that, according to her airline, the earliest she'll be able to leave is next Tuesday.

'This is really cool!'

"We were supposed to leave tomorrow and we found out all of the airlines are cancelled and the first flight out is going to be December 5th," Desjardins said. "So my holiday just got extended by a little bit."

Bali is Indonesia's top tourist destination, with its gentle Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior attracting about five million visitors a year.

Villagers carry their belongings during an evacuation following the eruption of Mount Agung. (Firdia Lisnawati/Associated Press)

Desjardins was within several kilometres of the volcano a few days ago.

"We saw some of the ashes coming up and we thought 'Oh, this is really cool!'," she said. "Now, it's like, maybe I could have watched it on the news and it still could have been cool from another place."

Consular assistance

Messages were sent to registered Canadians on Monday and the federal department's advisory for Indonesia was updated over the weekend.

Only one Canadian in the region has requested information, and Maxwell says they are ready to provide consular assistance as needed.

Canadians requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the nearest Canadian government office or the Global Affairs Canada 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa by collect phone call at +1 613 996 8885 or by email at