A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted several times over the weekend, emitting thick plumes of smoke that covered nearby resorts and villages with ash and prompted airport closures and flight cancellations that left thousands of tourists stranded.
Mount Agung’s cone lit up in orange when it erupted once Saturday evening and three more times early Sunday, the second time in less than a week. Ash shot up 13,000 feet into the atmosphere and drifted to the neighboring Lombok Island, forcing its airport to close on Sunday until at least 6 a.m. the next day, an official at the airport told The Associated Press. Bali’s airport remained open on Sunday with flights expected to take off after a slew of cancellations on Saturday.
"Tourism in Bali is still safe, except in the danger (zone) around Mount Agung," Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency said in a statement, adding that people within the 4.6-mile exclusion zone to “immediately evacuate” in an “orderly and calm manner,” according to the BBC.
Airlines were also issued a red warning, meaning an eruption can be imminent and large amounts of ash could be emitted into the air. Several thousand people were affected by Saturday's flight cancellations.
"We weren't notified by Jetstar in advance of us getting here (to Bali's airport)," said Australian tourist George Bennick. "So we are very disappointed about that."
Nearby resorts and villages were covered with less than half an inch of volcanic ash as of Sunday, disaster officials said. Local soldiers and police distributed masks for people on the islands.
Made Sugiri, an employee at Mahagiri Panoramic Resort, located around 6 miles from the crater, said a thin layer of volcanic ash reached the area.
"We are out of the danger zone, but like other resorts in the region, of course the eruptions cause a decrease in the number of visitors," he said.
"I think these latest eruptions are more dangerous, given the thick clouds it's releasing," he said. "Certainly we worry, but we have to wait and see. Hopefully there is no significant eruption."
More than 140,000 people fled Bali in September when Mount Agung showed signs of activity for the first time in more than half a century. Many residents returned home after the alert was lowered on Oct. 29, but about 25,000 residents are still in temporary shelters.
A possible major eruption has detered many travelers from visiting Indonesia’s top tourist destination. More than 5 million visitors travel to Bali for its Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior. Nearby Lombok is relatively undeveloped as a tourist destination, receiving fewer than 100,000 international visitors a year. However, Bali has lost at least $110 million in tourism after major evacuations were ordered in September, the BBC reported.
Agung also had a minor eruption on Tuesday, but authorities have not raised the alert status from the second-highest level that would include more people in the exclusion area, forcing them to evacuate. Though ash from the volcano could rain down for at least another month, no major eruption is expected, government volcanologist Gede Suantika said. A red-yellow light visible in ash above the mountain was the reflection of lava in the crater.
Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes. The volcano's last major eruption, in 1963, killed about 1,100 people.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.