Volcanic ash briefly closes Bali airport

Ash from a volcano forced Indonesian authorities to briefly close the airport on the resort island of Bali Thursday (Aug 6), sparking flight cancellations and travel misery for tourists during peak holiday season.

Bali: Ash from a volcano forced Indonesian authorities to briefly close the airport on the resort island of Bali Thursday (Aug 6), sparking flight cancellations and travel misery for tourists during peak holiday season.

Volcano Mount Raung on Indonesia's main island of Java has been rumbling since late June, spewing ash and lava high into the air and causing busy Ngurah Rai international airport to be shutdown four times.

Transport ministry spokesman JA Barata said the airport was closed for two and a half hours from midday (0400 GMT) Thursday.

Australian carriers Jetstar and Virgin Australia announced they were cancelling flights in and out of Bali Thursday, a popular holiday destination that attracts millions of tourists from around the world every year.

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika told AFP that the volcano on Thursday was shooting out ash clouds that were larger than those it had recently been emitting.

"The volcano normally shoots out ash 700 (2,300 feet) to 800 metres but it's around 1,000 metres today," he said.

The disruption comes during peak holiday season, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.

The most serious period was between Jul 9 and 12, when two closures forced almost 900 flights to be cancelled or delayed and created a backlog that took days to clear.

Air traffic is regularly disrupted by volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, which sits on a belt of seismic activity running around the basin of the Pacific Ocean and is home to the highest number of active volcanoes in the world, with around 130