Six Hong Kong tour groups stranded in Bali as Mount Agung threatens to erupt
One tourist was on 10-hour bus trip to try and get back to work in Hong Kong by Thursday
Six Hong Kong tour groups were among about 60,000 travellers stranded on the Indonesian island of Bali on Monday as a volcano eruption was feared imminent.
Joseph Tung Yao-chung, executive director of the Travel Industry Council, said about 150 people in total were affected, all of whom were safe but stranded after the closure of Denpasar International Airport.
Hong Kong’s Security Bureau issued a yellow travel advisory for Bali, warning travellers to “monitor the situation” and “exercise caution” in the face of the potential eruption of Mount Agung.
A Hong Kong tourist, who gave her name as Chan, woke up on Monday to the news of the airport shutdown and cut short her four-day trip so she could get back to work by Thursday.
“I bought a lot of food and plenty of water before dashing off to the airport to try my luck,” she said. “It was like running from a disaster.”
Her Cathay Pacific Airways flight was cancelled so she took a coach to the international airport of Surabaya, on a separate island nearly 430km to the northwest of Bali.
“It will probably take more than 10 hours to get to Surabaya,” Chan said of a trip that usually takes less than half that time. “Traffic is so bad I suspect everyone is trying to get out.”
Chan was not certain whether she would be able to get a Hong Kong-bound flight once she got to Surabaya.
Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon cancelled four flights on Monday morning: CX785 and KA350 from Hong Kong to Denpasar as well as CX784 and KA361 from Denpasar to Hong Kong.
“We are closely monitoring the situation at Mount Agung for further impact to our flight operations,” the airline said. “The situation remains volatile and can change very quickly.”
Hong Kong Airlines, as of 5pm on Monday, cancelled flights until Wednesday: HX707 and HX709 from Hong Kong to Denpasar as well as HX706 and HX708 from Denpasar to Hong Kong.
Tung said three tour groups were expected to visit Bali in the next few days and there had not been any change of agenda.
“We have received calls asking about trips to Bali, but so far no one called for help,” he said.
A spokeswoman for the Immigration Department said it had been in contact with the travel industry, different airlines, and different diplomatic bodies to keep track of developments.
“There have been Hong Kong people in Bali asking about local traffic information and arrangements for returning flights,” she said. “The department will … provide proper assistance and related information based on travellers’ needs.”
Agung rumbled back to life in September, forcing the evacuation of 140,000 people living nearby. Its activity decreased in late October and many returned to their homes.
But since last week, huge columns of thick grey smoke have been released from the volcano, reaching more than 3km into the sky and forcing flights to be grounded.
Some 40,000 people have already fled their homes around the volcano but as many as 100,000 could be displaced, disaster agency officials said after raising the alert to its highest level.
Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing about 1,600 people in one of the deadliest eruptions in a country that has nearly 130 active volcanoes.
Additional reporting by Harminder Singh