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Bali Volcano Threatens, but Island Still Safe, Officials Say


A view of the Mount Agung volcano erupting, in Karangasem, Bali island, Indonesia, early Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017.

Some international airlines resumed flights to Bali, Indonesia, Sunday. Several airlines canceled flights Saturday after Bali's Mount Agung volcano erupted, spewing smoke and ash hundreds of meters into the air, officials said.

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin resumed flights Sunday. Flights operated by KLM and AirAsia were also affected. Jetstar warned passengers that flights could be subject to change on short notice.

It was the second time in less than a week that Mount Agung had become active, sending grey-black ash at least 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) into the sky.

Though the airport remained open, thousands of people fled the island.

"Tourism in Bali is still safe, except in the danger [zone] around Mount Agung," Indonesia's Disaster Mitigation Agency said in a statement.

Senior volcanologist Gede Suantika asked residents in the local community to stay calm. But about 25,000 people have already evacuated from the slopes of Agung to shelters.

"We will continue to see eruptions like this on similar scales, but we cannot predict when Mount Agung will really erupt," Suantika told AFP.

The latest activity created a bigger ash cloud than the initial episode on Tuesday, officials said.

Villagers wear masks as they prepare to evacuate from their homes near the crater of Mount Agung at Besakih village, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 25, 2017. A volcano on the Indonesian tourist island erupted for the second time in a week on Saturday.
Villagers wear masks as they prepare to evacuate from their homes near the crater of Mount Agung at Besakih village, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia, Nov. 25, 2017. A volcano on the Indonesian tourist island erupted for the second time in a week on Saturday.

After the second time, Singapore updated its travel advisory for the island, noting that ash clouds could "severely disrupt air travel."

J. A. Barata, a spokesman for Indonesia's Transportation Ministry, said flights in and out of Bali remained “normal.”

"Tactical guidance for departure and arrival aircraft has been applied. This hasn't endangered any flights," he said.

However, several international flights were to have been canceled and rerouted on Saturday night as a result of the eruption, according to Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport website.

KLM, Qantas, AirAsia, and Virgin were among the airlines that canceled flights, which included travel to Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia.

Bali is a major tourist hub. Indonesia lies on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where tectonic plates crash, which causes frequent volcanic and seismic activity.

“There has not been an increase in seismic and volcanic activity after the [Tuesday] eruption and until this afternoon,” according to the agency’s statement, adding that it had not changed its emergency status for Agung from Level 3, one stage under the highest level. Level 3 is characterized by a sharp increase in seismicity in a given area, supported by results of other monitoring.

Mount Sinabung on Sumatra island, active since 2013, is at its highest alert level.

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    Aline Barros

    Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.

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