Ash clouds thrown up by Indonesia’s Mount Sangeang Api volcano have forced airlines to cancel all flights to and from the northern Australian city of Darwin.
Mount Sangeang Api began erupting on Friday and plumes of ash have been sweeping south towards Australia.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have all cancelled flights. Services between Australia and the province of Bali have also been hit.
The authorities say other airports could be affected in the coming days.
Hundreds of passengers have been caught up, with disruption expected to continue until at least Sunday.
Ash clouds thrown up by Indonesia’s Mount Sangeang Api volcano have forced airlines to cancel all flights to and from the northern Australian city of Darwin (photo AP)
“The volcano is undergoing a sustained, rather significant eruption at the moment,” Emile Jansons, manager of the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre told Reuters news agency.
“For the last 10 hours we’ve been observing large masses of volcanic ash being generated.
“Nobody has a very good handle on what this volcano is likely to do in the next 24 hours or beyond.”
Some flights between Perth and Bali were cancelled on Saturday.
Volcanic ash can be extremely dangerous to aircraft as the fine particles can damage engines.
The cloud is now sweeping south towards as Alice Springs, officials say.
Deputy PM Warren Truss said it could take days for Australian services to return to normal.
“Depending on wind and other weather conditions, the ash has the potential to affect flights to and from other airports, including Brisbane, during coming days,” he said.
The island of Sangeang Api has no permanent residents after they vacated following an eruption in 1988. Farmers nearby have reportedly been told to leave the area.
Indonesia lies across a series of geological fault-lines and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
There are about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
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Lufthansa has announced the cancelation of 3,800 flights for this week because of a strike by pilots over pay and working conditions.
The company said 425,000 passengers would be affected by the stoppages, due to take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (April 2 to April 4).
Lufthansa added it would inform passengers via text message or email about the flight changes.
Its freight carrier, Lufthansa Cargo, will also be affected.
Lufthansa said the impact on profits would be “in the range of tens of millions of euros”.
Lufthansa has announced the cancelation of 3,800 flights for this week because its pilots strike
“The announcement alone has already caused significant damages since passengers have already rebooked flights and logistic customers have made arrangements with other cargo airlines to secure the transport of their goods,” Lufthansa said in a statement.
“During the three-day walkout by Cockpit teams, there will only be around 500 short- and long-haul flights by Lufthansa and Germanwings,” the statement added.
However, the group said that pilots at its other airlines, including Swiss International Air Lines, Austrian Airlines, Eurowings, Lufthansa CityLine and Air Dolomiti, would not take part in the strike.
Lufthansa added that where possible, these airlines would “use larger planes on routes from and to Germany in order to bring as many rebooked Lufthansa passengers as possible to their destinations”.
Lufthansa said the strike would be one of the biggest walkouts in its history.
It is the third strike to hit Frankfurt airport, Lufthansa’s home base, in six weeks.
Lufthansa’s management is urging the pilots’ union, Vereinigung Cockpit (VC), to restart negotiations as soon as possible.
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