Australia flights resume as volcanic ash disperses

As Elaine Jung reports, the cloud of ash prompted flight cancellations but is now dispersing

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Australian airlines are resuming flights in and out of the northern city of Darwin after a volcanic ash cloud that forced cancellations dispersed.

Operations at Darwin International Airport were returning to normal on Sunday afternoon.

However, ash is still emerging from Indonesia's Mount Sangeang Api volcano and further flight disruption is not ruled out.

Friday's eruption also affected some services to Bali.

'Rather significant'

Hundreds of passengers were caught out by the cancellations.

However, Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia have all now either resumed flights to Darwin or are about to.

Passenger at Darwin, 31 May Hundreds of passengers were caught out by the cancellations

Volcanic ash can be extremely dangerous to aircraft as the fine particles can damage engines.

Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss had warned it could take days for Australian services to return to normal.

Emile Jansons, manager of the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre, told Reuters on Sunday: "With the volcano continuing to erupt, we can still see a significant amount of ash around the volcano at the moment.

"Our biggest concern is that the boundary of the ash cloud is not very far away from Bali and if there is another larger eruption then the ash could move and affect that airspace."

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.

Tens of thousands of people fled their homes and several people were killed after a volcano erupted in east Java in February.

Map of Darwin and other areas affected by ash cloud in Australia and Indonesia

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