Volcano causes more flight chaos in Indonesia

The ash clouds bellowing out of Mount Merapi volcano led to cancellation.

Jakarta: The ash clouds bellowing out of Indonesia`s Mount Merapi volcano on Sunday caused the cancellation of dozens more flights as officials warned the death toll from the latest eruption would rise.

Airlines cancelled 50 flights on Sunday and 36 flights were cancelled on Saturday, in an echo of events in Iceland earlier this year when volcanic ash led to thousands of cancellations and transport chaos across Europe.

"Fifty flights to and from Jakarta from 15 airlines have been cancelled today for safety reasons, they are mostly flights which pass through Singapore," Soekarno-Hatta International Airport spokesman Sudaryanto said.

The airlines affected include Singapore Airlines, Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Malaysia Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa.

The spokesman said Jakarta airport, which handles around 900 flights per day, remained open.

Flights to cities closer to Merapi on the main island of Java -- including Yogyakarta, Solo and Bandung -- have also been affected.

US President Barack Obama is scheduled to arrive in Jakarta on Tuesday for a highly anticipated visit. White House officials said on Saturday there was no sign so far of any disruption to the schedule.

Mount Merapi first started erupting on October 26 and a violent blow-out on Friday killed nearly 80 people.

The country`s disaster management agency said on Sunday the overall death toll from the disaster had been revised down to 117, but it warned the toll would climb as rescuers reached stricken villages.

"The death toll will clearly rise as rescuers are still looking for bodies in the villages," the agency`s spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The volcano, which is 430 kilometres (267 miles) from Jakarta, continued to spew clouds of gas and ash on Sunday.

"The eruptions continue to pose a big threat to residents," volcanologist Budi Santoso said.

The Indonesian archipelago has dozens of active volcanoes and straddles major tectonic fault lines known as the "ring of fire" from the Indian to the Pacific oceans.

The authorities are also dealing with the aftermath of a tsunami which smashed into villages on the remote Mentawai island chain on October 25, killing over 400 people.

Bureau Report

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