Mount Agung erupts in Karangasem, Indonesia, yesterday. picture: ap

Durban - South Africans travelling to Bali - where volcanic activity has led to urgent evacuations and an extended airport shutdown - are urged to contact their travel agents on the status of their flights.

News service Reuters reports that Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport will have been closed for more than 24 hours by Tuesday morning, disrupting 445 flights and about 59 000 passengers, after Mount Agung sent volcanic ash high into the sky.

Aviation news site Aerotime reported that Garuda Indonesia, China Eastern, Lion Air, Malaysia Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and AirAsia were some of the airlines whose operations were affected by the situation.

The customer care manager and spokesperson for One Stop Tours in Durban, Shiksha Maharajh, said the airports were officially closed until Tuesday morning.

“Kuta, Ubud, Nusa Dua, and Sanur are the popular tourist destinations and are located far from Mount Agung. Authorities believe that areas beyond 12km from Mount Agung’s crater remain safe.”

Read more: PICS: Airport remains closed as volcano spews more ash over Bali

Maharajh said clients who were scheduled to travel in the next two weeks should exercise extreme caution.

In these situations, she said, it was possible for travellers to apply for refunds.

“Airlines generally refund air tickets in cases like these. However, the refund is left to the discretion of the service provider.”

She advised travellers to plan itineraries in the main tourist areas only.

Flight Centre told The Mercury through a spokesperson that customers should not assume all flights would be cancelled, but rather check the status of flights with their travel agent or directly on the airline’s website.

Also read: Bali warns of imminent 'bigger' Mount Agung eruption

They said that travel insurance was always highly recommended for travel, and if a customer had confirmed a travel insurance policy, they should confirm its scope of cover.

Tourism management lecturer at the Tshwane University of Technology, Unathi Sonwabile Henama, advised travellers - no matter their destination - to alert the South African embassy or consulate in that country before their visits.

“Keeping an electronic and hard copy of your travel documents - including visas and passports - is also key, especially in the event of a crisis.”

On Monday, AP reported that Indonesian authorities had ordered 100 000 people to evacuate the island.

Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 3000m into the atmosphere since the weekend, and lava was welling up in the crater, sometimes reflected as a reddish-yellow glow in the ash plumes.

Its explosions could be heard about 12km away.

The volcano’s last major eruption, in 1963, killed about 1100 people.

Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta that the extension of the danger zone affected 22 villages and about 90000 to 100000 people.

He said about 40000 people had been evacuated, but others had not left because they felt safe or did not want to abandon their livestock.

“Authorities will comb the area to persuade them,” he said. “If needed, we will forcibly evacuate them.”

About 25000 people are already living in evacuation centres after an increase in tremors from the mountain in September sparked an evacuation.

Airport spokesperson Air Ahsanurrohim said the closure was in effect until Tuesday morning, but that the situation would be reviewed every six hours.

The Mercury