Indonesian authorities raised the alert for a rumbling volcano to the highest level on Monday and closed the international airport on the tourist island of Bali, stranding thousands of travelers.
Mount Agung has been hurling ash thousands of meters into the atmosphere since Saturday, which had already forced the small international airport on the neighboring island of Lombok to close as the plumes drifted east.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said Bali’s international airport, where most flights had been continuing, was closed for 24 hours. It said authorities would consider reopening it Tuesday after evaluating the situation.
“Bali’s airport has indeed been closed. We’re still coordinating the next steps,” airport spokesman Arie Ahsanurrohim told AFP.
The closure was set to affect tens of thousands of passengers, he added.
“Continuous ash puffs are sometimes accompanied by explosive eruptions accompanied by a weak sound of boom which sounds up to 12 km from the summit,” the National Board for Disaster Management wrote on Facebook.
“The rays of fire are increasingly observed in at night. This indicates the potential for a larger eruption is imminent.”
Geological agency head, Kasbani, who goes by one name, said the alert level was raised at 6 a.m. because the volcano has shifted from steam-based eruptions to magmatic eruptions. However he says he’s still not expecting a major eruption.
“We don’t expect a big eruption but we have to stay alert and anticipate,” he says.
Ash covered roads, cars and buildings near the volcano in the northeast of the island, while scores of flights were cancelled and overnight a red glow of what appeared to be magma could be seen in photographs by Antara, the state news agency.
National disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho called for people to stay calm.
“As we have widened the exclusion zone, so the number of people evacuating will increase but we don’t have the latest data yet,” he told AFP.
“Most important is always to follow our instructions and keep calm,” he added.