Manado airport closed for more than 10 hours due to volcanic ash
Evangeline Lita Aruperes
The Jakarta Post
State-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura (AP) I authorities shut down Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado, North Sulawesi starting from 7:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday to about 6 a.m. on Wednesday because of volcanic ash from the eruption of Mount Soputan, which was dangerous to aircraft.
The general manager of the AP I office at Sam Ratulangi Airport, Halendara Waworuntu, said the closure was done for the safety of passengers, since the volcanic ash had spread over the airport and its surrounding areas, disrupting flights.
'We needed to close the airport because of the volcano's activity, which had affected flights,' said Waworuntu. He said it was possible for the office to extend the closure if Mt. Soputan continued to blow volcanic ash over the airport.
Waworuntu said AP I authorities would always be on 24-hour alert to anticipate the impacts of the volcanic eruption on airport activities while they continued to receive reports on the situation in the area.
'Currently, we are on standby at the airport. We have also continued to communicate with officers at the Mt. Soputan observation post to get updated information on the eruption of the volcano,' said Waworuntu.
Due to the closure, a Citilink QG 951 flight serving the Manado-Jakarta route, which should have departed at 7:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday, was cancelled. The flight was rescheduled to depart at about 9 a.m. (10 a.m. Jakarta time) on Wednesday. Other flights cancelled on Tuesday included Lion Air JT 740 from Makassar (scheduled to arrive at 10:20 p.m.), Lion Air JT 770 from Jakarta (also to have arrived at 10:20 p.m.), Lion Air JT 730 from Balikpapan (10:45 p.m.) and Garuda Indonesia GA 606 from Jakarta (10:55 p.m.).
The eruption of Mt. Soputan was also monitored through ASH.tam satellite imagery by Australia, which showed the height of the volcanic ash to have reached more than 12,000 meters.
A representative of Manado-based Citilink, who identified himself only as Willy, said all airlines must adhere to a Notice to Airmen (Notam) issued for the sake of their flight safety. However, he said, Citilink could not give passengers any compensation for the delays because they was due to a natural disaster.
'We offer an apology for the delays but we cannot give any compensation because it is force majeure in nature,' said Willy.
Citilink allowed passengers to reschedule their flights without any fees. 'We also could give them a 100 percent refund,' said Willy.
The head of the Airport Authority for Regional Division VIII in Manado, Widyo Praptono, said the authority would carry out monitoring activities at the airport to prevent any unexpected incidents.
'We will continue to coordinate with AP I,' he said. Volcanic ash blown from the Mt. Soputan eruption was reported to be drifting to the north and east at a speed of about six knots. (ebf)(+)
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