Indonesia shuts down Bali airport as Agung volcano erupts

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Indonesian authorities shut Bali's global airport for a second time in seven months as a fresh eruption Thursday at Mount Agung near the popular tourist island sent volcanic ashes several miles high into the sky.

The early morning closure of Ngurah Rai airport resulted in the cancellation of 446 flights, including more than 200 global arrivals and departures, with as many as 15,700 passengers affected, according to news reports.

Its last major eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.

Mount Agung's crater glows red from the lava as it spews volcanic smoke In Karangasem, Bali Island, Indonesia.

The volcano began gushing smoke on Thursday.

Ash cloud Mount Agung produces can pose a threat to aircraft flying in the area.

"Safety remains the main reason for the decision to close the airport", disaster management spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said in a statement. The shutdowns will lead to cancellation of 446 flights, including 207 worldwide flights, affecting an estimated 74,928 passengers, he said.

The regional volcanic ash advisory centre in Darwin, Australia, said winds could carry the ash southwest toward Java, Indonesia's most densely populated island. The authorities have also reduced its alert status from higher to lower level in the month of February 2018.

No other airlines have cancelled flights yet.

Tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after last year's eruption.

The volcano is about 75km from Bali's tourist hub in Kuta.

Australia's national airline Qantas said in a statement that it's "currently not safe" to operate Bali flights.

An earlier flight on AirAsia was called off before the airport was shuttered early Friday morning.

Bali's governor said officials were working on getting visitors on their way.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Agung has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life previous year.

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