15 February, 10:34

Indonesia: seven international airports still closed after volcano eruption

Indonesian workers check a Citilink airplane covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Indonesian workers check a Citilink airplane covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Indonesian workers check a Citilink airplane covered with ash from the Mount Kelud volcano, at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Seven international airports and an airstrip on Indonesia's main island of Java were still shut Saturday following the volcanic eruption of Mount Kelud, an official said.

"The volcano ceased spewing ash and rock but airports are still blanketed by volcanic ash and air transport operations remain grounded," spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

He said airport operators were still cleaning up their facilities while waiting for results of evaluations by authorities before they could resume normal activities.

Authorities declared a 10-kilometre radius exclusion zone and thousands of villagers were still sheltered in evacuation centres on the eastern side of the island.

The volcano has stopped erupting but white smoke was still billowing up to 3 kilometres high from its crater.

"It is showing signs of decreasing volcanic activities," Nugroho said.

The two airports in the capital Jakarta were still open, as well as the one on the resort island of Bali, officials said.

200,000 evacuated, two dead, flights disrupted as Indonesian volcano erupts

Flights from Australia to Bali, Jakarta and Phuket have been disrupted after a volcano erupted on the Indonesian island of Java. Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians have been evacuated and three international airports have been closed after Mount Kelud spewed red-hot ash and rocks on the densely populated island late yesterday.

Two people were crushed to death when parts of their homes collapsed after the explosive eruption, which sent millions of cubic meters of dust and rocks into the atmosphere and could be heard up to 200 kilometres away.

Some 200,000 people were ordered to evacuate, though some families have ignored the orders and just over 100,000 are now in temporary shelters, National Disaster Mitigation Agency Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

A volcanic ash hazard for airliners has been caused by the violent onset of eruptions from Mt Kelud in Java. The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin says apparently dense and dangerous plumes of ash have extended as high as 17,000 metres, passing through all the flight levels, typically between 9,000-13,000 metres, used by jet airliners.

Virgin Australia has cancelled all its flights to Bali, the Cocos Islands, Phuket, and Christmas Island. Qantas has delayed two Jakarta flights until at least tomorrow, and some of the air corridors used to fly to Singapore or beyond are subject to diversions which will add to flight times and may therefore disrupt schedules for dozens of flights to or from Australia as well as disruptiong some Indonesian internal services.

Villagers in eastern Java described the terror of volcanic materials raining down on their homes, while AFP correspondents at the scene saw residents covered in grey dust fleeing in cars and on motorbikes towards evacuation centres.

Sunar, a 60-year-old from a village eight kilometres (five miles) in Blitar district, said his home also collapsed after being hit with "rocks the size of fists".

"The whole place was shaking - it was like we were on a ship in high seas. We fled and could see lava in the distance flowing into a river," said Sunar, who goes by one name.

“A rain of ash, sand and rocks is reaching up to 15km,’’ from the volcano’s crater, said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

Ash up to 2.5 centimetres deep soon covered Surabaya, the country’s second-largest city, and even farther afield in Jogyakarta, where motorists switched on headlights in daylight. TV footage from towns closer to the peak showed cattle covered in ash.

Transport Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan said Jogyakarta, Solo and Surabaya airports were closed due to reduced visibility and the dangers posed to aircraft engines by ash.

Earlier this month, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province erupted as authorities were allowing thousands of villagers who had been evacuated to return to its slopes, killing 16 people. Sinabung has been erupting for four months, forcing the evacuation of more than 30,000 people.

Voice of Russia, blogs.crikey.com.au, NDTV, theaustralian.com.au, dpa

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