The airport on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali reopened on Wednesday as wind blew away ash spewed out by a volcano, giving airlines a window to get tourists out while authorities stepped up efforts to get thousands of villagers to move to safety.
Operations at the airport – the second-busiest in Indonesia – have been disrupted since the weekend when Mount Agung, in east Bali, began belching out huge clouds of smoke and ash, and authorities warned of an “imminent threat” of a major eruption.
“Bali’s international airport started operating normally,” air traffic control provider AirNav said in a statement, adding that operations resumed at 2:28 p.m. (0628 GMT).
The reopening of the airport, which is about 60 km (37 miles) away from Mount Agung, followed a downgrade in an aviation warning to one level below the most serious, with the arrival of more favorable winds.
“We really hope that we actually get a flight, maybe today or tomorrow, to get back home,” said tourist Nathan James, from the Australian city of Brisbane, waiting at the airport.
A large plume of white and grey ash and smoke hovered over Agung on Wednesday, after night-time rain partially obscured a fiery glow at its peak.
President Joko Widodo begged villagers living in a danger zone around the volcano to move to emergency centers.
Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the disaster mitigation agency said about 43,000 people had heeded advice to take shelter, but an estimated 90,000 to 100,000 people were living in the zone.
The decision to resume flights followed an emergency meeting at the airport, when authorities weighing up weather conditions, tests and data from AirNav and other groups.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 later showed there were flights departing and arriving at the airport although its general manager said if the wind changed direction the airport could be closed again at short notice.
Agung looms over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 meters (9,800 feet). Its last major eruption in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.
Ash coated cars, roofs and roads to the southeast of the crater on Wednesday and children wore masks as they walked to school.