Bali shuts airport after volcanic eruption

A Balinese Hindu guard known as Pecalang patrols a closed Ngurah Rai International Airport on Nyepi the Balinese day of silence in Kuta Bali

The popular Indonesian tourist island of Bali has closed its worldwide airport after Mount Agung volcano began spewing volcanic ash and vapor higher than two kilometers (6,500 feet) into the air.

Among the airlines serving the resort island, Garuda Indonesia, Sriwijaya and Indonesia Air Asia said they were working to help stranded passengers.

Qantas turned back two Bali-bound flights departing from Melbourne and Sydney, and delayed two more due to depart Denpasar.

"Based on the meteorology agency prediction, the volcanic ash will reach the airport on Friday (this) morning", airport spokesman Yanus Suprayogi said in a statement, adding that a possible extension of the airport closure after 7:00 pm would be reviewed.

Qantas released a statement today saying it was not "currently safe to operate flights to and from Denpasar Airport" after Mt Agung began shooting ash 2000 metres into the air on Thursday.

"While these disruptions are frustrating, we always put safety first".

The eruption comes one week before Western Australian school holidays start.

The regional volcanic ash advisory centre in Darwin said winds could carry the ash southwest toward Bali's global airport and Java, Indonesia's most densely populated island.

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Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the disaster mitigation agency said activity was going on deep under the volcano.

Mount Agung, in northeastern Bali, has erupted with various intensities since late previous year and in December the airport was also closed for a period and thousands were evacuated closer to the volcano.

Mount Agung is about 70 kilometres northeast of Bali tourist hotspot Kuta.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.

Activity at the volcano was high last year and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, but it had been quieter this year.

Over 300 flights have been canceled, according to airport authorities, impacting the travel plans of thousands of people.

Local government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

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