Mt Agung ash cloud leaves travellers stranded in Bali

Flights in and out of Bali have been affected by another volcanic ash cloud.
Flights in and out of Bali have been affected by another volcanic ash cloud.

THOUSANDS of Aussie travellers heading to and from Bali face another day of disruption as airlines monitor the ash cloud from the Mount Agung volcano.

Scientists say Mount Agung’s volcanic activity could escalate further over the coming days, meaning planes could stay grounded leaving thousands unable to fly in or out of Bali.

Denpasar Airport remains closed and Indonesian authorities have ordered 100,000 residents living near the volcano to evacuate the area immediately.

Jetstar has cancelled all flights to and from Bali, and will reassess the situation at 4pm on Tuesday.

The fallout from the forced flight cancellations has impacted an estimated 5000 Jetstar passengers, a spokeswoman for the airline told AAP on Tuesday.

That number could rise with Jetstar acknowledging that “further disruptions are possible this week depending on weather conditions”.

Affected Jetstar customers have been given the option of flying to destinations including Phuket in Thailand, Singapore, Fiji or Tokyo at no additional cost.

Virgin Australia has cancelled all flights between Bali and Australia on Tuesday.

Other major airlines are all monitoring the situation but are unable to fly until the massive ash cloud dissipates.

More than 400 flights to and from Bali have been cancelled as a result of the ash cloud, leaving nearly 60,000 travellers from across the globe stranded on the holiday island.

Airports deserted

The normally bustling airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali is a near-ghost town, dotted by anxious Australian tourists desperate to get home.

Mt Agung lies a fair distance – about 70km away – but the threat it poses is very real, and visible.

Activity at the mountain has ramped up in recent weeks culminating with the cancellation of flights in and out of Bali this week due to a large ash cloud thrown up by the volcano.

Indonesia has raised its alert for Mt Agung to the highest level, warning of the risk of a lava eruption is “imminent”.

Mt Agung, which sits more than 3000 metres high over eastern Bali, last erupted in 1963 killing more than 1000 people and razing several villages.

On Monday night, tourists settled down for the night on makeshift beds on the airport’s dusty floors.

Some were considering making the more than 10-hour journey to Surabaya and catching a series of flights across Indonesia back to Australia.

All are frustrated by what they say is a lack of updated information from their airlines about what happens next.

The first Janeen McKay heard about flight cancellations was in a text from her brother back in Australia as she was on her way to Bali’s airport.

“I had nothing from Jetstar, they had my mobile number,” the West Australian told AAP.

After a 12-hour wait at the airport, she’s now been told she won’t be able to get home until Saturday at the earliest.

“We had a really nice time in Bali but then we get here and this has just ruined it,” Ms McKay said.

“Why does it take five days to get us out of here? Not very happy.”

Ms McKay, an office manager, is keen to get back to Geraldton, north of Perth, to take over the care of her elderly mother from her sister, a nurse, who’s needed back at work on Thursday.

Veronika Naberezhnova is also non-plussed.

“It’s a bit annoying,” the Department of Human Services worker said.

“My family’s waiting there (in Sydney) as well, they’re all waiting, they’re all stressed.”

On the other side of Bali, at Sanur beach, the distant crackle of lightning and an afternoon rain shower were the only annoyances for tourists lounging on sun beds and sipping cocktails.

For them, the airport’s closure means an extended holiday.

“What’s to be annoyed about, getting stuck here,” said Simon Allan, whose flight to Perth was cancelled because of the ash cloud.

“We have no control of nature and we’ll just go with the moment and see what happens tomorrow,” his partner Deborah Flynn told AAP.

– AAP