World·Photos

Bali airport closed, nearly 700 flights cancelled because of volcanic ash

Thousands of tourists are stranded on three Indonesian islands after ash from an erupting volcano forced the closure of airports and blanketed villages and farmlands.

Mount Rinjani on the nearby island of Lombok has been spewing ash for 10 days

Mount Barujari blows dangerous ash into atmosphere; planes grounded as a result 1:09

Thousands of tourists are stranded on three Indonesian islands after ash from an erupting volcano forced the closure of airports and blanketed villages and farmlands.

Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island blasted ash and debris roughly 3,500 metres into the air on Wednesday, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman.

Volcanic ash is seen during an eruption inside the crater of Mount Rinjani on the Indonesian island of Lombok on Oct. 25, in this photo taken by Antara Foto. (Lalu Edi/Antara Foto/Reuters)

The eruption shut down flights at the Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, about 135 kilometres from Lombok, and the Selaparang airport in Mataram, the capital of West Nusatenggara province, located on Lombok Island.

Later Wednesday, the Blimbingsari airport in Banyuwangi on the eastern end of main Java Island also was closed, the Ministry of Transportation said.

A man sleeps on the floor of the Ngurah Rai airport Wednesday following his flight being cancelled in Bali. (Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto/Reuters)

A total of 692 international and domestic flights were either cancelled or delayed from Tuesday to Thursday, the ministry said.

Airlines were told to avoid routes near the mountain and a decision about reopening the two airports would be made early Thursday, said ministry spokesman Julius Barata.

Airlines are being told not to fly near the mountain. (Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images)

At Bali's airport, many travellers complained about a lack of information about their delayed flights and some were sleeping on benches inside terminals.

Airport workers protect an aircraft's engine with plastic at Ngurah Rai Airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. (Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto/Reuters )

Farms and trees around the 3,726-metre-high volcano were covered in thick grey ash, but nearby towns and villages were not in danger, Nugroho said.

Rinjani is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. The archipelago is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

Passengers wait to check the status of their flights with airline desk at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali on Wednesday. (Firdia Lisnawati)

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