Bali tackles backlog after volcano hits nearly 900 flights

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Baku, July 13, AZERTAC

Indonesian authorities at Bali's international airport were fighting Monday to clear a backlog after almost 900 flights were cancelled or delayed in recent days due to a volcanic eruption, causing travel chaos during the peak holiday season.

Mount Raung on Indonesia's main island of Java, which has been rumbling for weeks, sent an ash cloud floating over Bali on Thursday, forcing the airport to close for two days.

Thousands of tourists who were visiting the resort island famed for its palm-fringed beaches found themselves stuck at Ngurah Rai airport, near Bali's capital Denpasar, anxiously watching departure boards, sitting and sleeping on the floor.

The airport closed again on Sunday as the ash returned but reopened several hours later after authorities gave the all-clear.

Officials said the clouds of ash continued to drift away from Bali Monday, giving airport authorities a chance to clear the backlog, which they said would take about three days.

"We are doing this as quickly as possible as the ash could come back any time," airport official Yulfiadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.

Between Thursday and Sunday, a total of 873 flights were cancelled or delayed, Yulfiadi said.

Most airlines resumed flights Sunday evening after the airport reopened, but Australian carriers Virgin Australia and Jetstar decided to keep services to and from Bali on hold. Many Australians are stuck in Bali after spending the school break on the island.

Virgin Australia also cancelled its flights to and from Bali Monday, saying their forecasters had warned that conditions were not suitable, while Jetstar resumed services during daylight hours.

Airport manager Trikora Harjo said the airport was operating normally again, adding: "The weather is good so I am not sure why one or two airlines have chosen not to fly."

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