A volcano on the popular resort and cultural island of Bali continues to spray ash 2 ½ miles into the skies, stranding an estimated 160,000 tourists for a second day. It remained unclear on Tuesday if the eruption would worsen or when it might be over.
The beaches of Bali are a favored destination for Australians during winter months in the Southern Hemisphere. Many other visitors and groups are drawn by the island’s spiritual and cultural attractions, which were prominent in the book and movie Eat Pray Love.
The official alert for the volcano, Mount Agung, is at the highest level. Authorities have ordered 100,000 residents to evacuate an area extending 6 miles from the volcano’s crater. An eruption in 1963 killed some 1,100 people.
An airport spokesperson in Denpasar said 443 flights were cancelled today, affecting nearly 60,000 travelers. A ripple effect was caused throughout the region, as flights were either delayed or cancelled in Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur. Some airlines, such as Cathay Pacific and Virgin Australia, canceled flights to Denpasar through Wednesday.
On Monday, the governor of Bali, a Province of Indonesia, ordered hotels to provide a free night to stranded passengers. Many hotels responded by adding a second night at 50 percent off. Other hotels used social media to get the word out they were open and had no problems. Grand Hyatt Bali Resort, for example, posted a video on its Facebook page showing its landscaped grounds untouched by ash.
A NASA satellite, it was reported, detected evidence that a pathway from the storage chamber in the volcano’s crust has opened, making it more likely lava will flow to the surface. Nonetheless, nothing was certain.
“There are many examples in history where you have this kind of seismic buildup—steam ejections of a little bit of ash, growing eruptions of ash to a full-scale stratosphere-reaching column of ash, which can presage a major volcanic event,” said Richard Arculus, a volcano expert at Australian National University.
Editor’s note: The Bali airport reopened Wednesday, Nov. 29, morning.