Jakarta — Airnav Indonesia, the country’s air navigation agency, extended on Tuesday (28/11) airspace closure over I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali for another 24 hours after nearby Mount Agung spewed a column of ash above its slopes overnight. The airport was initially scheduled to reopen at 7:00 a.m. this morning after its suspending operations on Monday following the volcano’s first eruption in over 50 years. Mt. Agung has continued erupted over the past couple of days. Under the new schedule, Ngurah Rai Airport will resume operations at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday at the earliest. “We and all the stakeholders put utmost importance on flight safety. The decision was taken to ensure that,” said Wisnu Darjono, Airnav’s operation director. Since the airport suspended operations on Monday, 196 international flights and 249 domestic flights have been grounded, leaving more than 80,000 passengers stranded. Authorities and local hotels offered free buses, hotel rooms, free visa extension services and food coupons to assuage travelers’ burdens. Ngurah Rai airport is the only international gateway, which accounts 40 percent Indonesia’s tourism market. The airport is also the main hub to reach destinations to eastern Indonesia, like Labuan Bajo and Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara. Authorities have yet to announce how many flights will be impacted by the airport closure extension. However, Wisnu said the Ministry of Transportation, the highest authority for transport in the country, approved Airnav’s decision. He added that the wind now blows from north to south at between 5 to 10 knots, carrying ash from Mt. Agung west to Denpasar, 70 km away from the volcano, where the airport is located. “Volcanic Ash Advisories indicate that the aircraft’s guiding traffic path has been covered with volcanic ash, thus endangering flights,” Wisnu said, referring to the Volcanic Advisory Ash Centers VAAC), a global network of meteorologists and volcanologists under the International Civil Aviation Organization. Abrasive volcanic ash can disrupt blades in jets and turboprop engines and can cause complete engine failures.