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Ansari’s Brunei visit cancelled over ongoing volcanic ash scare

Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari’s visit to Brunei was called off on Thursday after administrative authorities in Bali, Indonesia, decided to continue with their no flights ban for another 24 hours.

Briefing the Indian media accompanying the Vice President on his originally scheduled two-nation visit to Indonesia and Brunei, officials from the Vice President’s Secretariat confirmed that no flights are being allowed to come in or take off from Bali till 8 a.m. on Friday (November 6), and added that Balinese administration will be undertaking a review of the overall situation at around 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. this evening to decide on when it would be safe for the aircraft to come in or go out of the province.

The officials further informed that the Vice President’s Secretariat is in touch with the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and other relevant agencies on the need for possibly arranging an alternative exit plan for the Vice President and his entourage should there be a further delay.

The delayed departure of the Vice President has not only led to the cancellation of the Brunei leg of the visit, but also upset his pre-scheduled official engagements back in India. Vice President Ansari, as per official sources, was scheduled to play host to Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao for delegation-level talks and other engagements.

It is now being said that in the wake of his inability to be present, another senior Indian Government representative will be designated to play host for the visiting dignitary.

According to official sources, the Vice President will depart at 3 p.m. (Bali time) today. But nothing has been officially confirmed as of now.

As per the latest report, three airports in Indonesia have been closed on grounds of safety following the eruption on Mount Rinjani in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara.

The Jakarta Post quoted Yusfandri Gona, the area head at Ngurah Rai International Airport, as saying that the volcanic ash from the eruption had spread around the region forcing the closure of the three airports. These airports are the Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali, the Selaparang Airport in Lombok and the Blimbingsari Airport in Banyuwangi in East Java.

Mt. Barujari started to spew volcanic ash on October 25, leading to the closure of hiking tracks in the area.

The Jakarta Post quoted Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), as saying that the agency and the local disaster mitigation agency had declared an alert Level 2 for Mt. Rinjani following intensified volcanic activity on Wednesday.

Mt Barujari, which is located inside the caldera of Mt. Rinjani, continues to spill volcanic ash that is spreading to the west and southwest to Banyuwangi.

Vice President Ansari reached Bali on Tuesday on the first leg of his pre-scheduled two-nation visit to Indonesia and Brunei. He was scheduled to depart for Brunei yesterday.

The eruption of Mount Barujari has sent ash and debris spewing to more than 11,000 feet into the air. Local authorities have said that nearly 200 flights have already been cancelled at Bali on Wednesday and dozens more have been delayed or cancelled at other airports.

A Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), which is a global group of experts responsible for coordinating and disseminating information on atmospheric volcanic ash clouds that may endanger aviation, is also reported to be monitoring the situation arising out of the Mt. Barujari and Mt. Rinjani spill-out.

As of 2010, there are nine Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers located around the world, each one focusing on a particular geographical region. Their analyses are made public in the form of Volcanic Ash Advisories (VAA) and often incorporate the results of computer simulation models called Volcanic Ash Transport and Dispersion.

These nine centers are in Anchorage, Buenos Aires, Darwin, London, Montreal, Tokyo, Toulouse, Washington and Wellington.

When an ash cloud is detected the VAAC will gather all the available information on this and then make use their computer models to predict the path of the ash cloud at different flight levels used by aircraft. They will then issue an alert to aviation and meteorological offices as stated within the IAVW procedure manual. (ANI)