Asia Pacific Bali airport reopens, but volcano still spewing ash By Stephen Wright, Associated Press / November 29, 2017 Share 1 -- KARANGASEM, Indonesia (AP) -- The airport on the Indonesian resort island of Bali reopened Wednesday after an erupting volcano forced its closure two days ago, but the country's president said the danger had not passed and urged anyone within the mountain's exclusion zone to get out "for the sake of their safety." Volcanic ash reaching 25,000 feet in the air began drifting south and southeast of Mount Agung, leaving clean space above the airport for planes to land and take off, said airport spokesman Arie Ahsannurohim.The airport, which handles more than 400 flights a day, had closed Monday, disrupting travel for tens of thousands of people trying to enter or leave the popular vacation destination. Thick ash particles are hazardous to aircraft and can choke engines.Despite the all-clear from authorities, flights are unlikely to rapidly return to normal levels and a change in the direction of the ash or a new more powerful eruption could force the airport's closure again.Figures from the airport showed 23 flights, mostly domestic, that carried about 1,600 passengers left after the reopening Wednesday afternoon. Inbound flights included a Singapore Airlines jet with only 2 passengers and another with 17 passengers. Many domestic flights are scheduled for Thursday but only four international flights are shown as scheduled for departure so far for Thursday morning.Tens of thousands of travelers have been stranded since the airport was closed Monday due to volcanic ash.South Korean flag carriers are sending two charter flights to Indonesia to bring 500-700 stranded citizens home. A Korean Air A330 is expected to land in Bali and an Asiana Airlines A330 is heading to Surabaya on neighboring Java island.Some stranded tourists managed to get off the island before the airport reopened, but they faced an arduous journey involving crowded roads, buses, ferries and sometimes overnight waits in yet another airport in Surabaya on the island of Java."This is a very unforgettable experience for us. So much hassle and definitely one for the books," said Sheryl David, a tourist from Manila, Philippines, who arrived Saturday in Bali with three friends and was supposed to leave Tuesday. She remained stuck in a third airport on Wednesday in the capital, Jakarta, waiting for a flight home that required buying a new ticket. She said the experience didn't dampen her feelings about the island."Yes, still a paradise," she texted.The volcano's last major eruption, in 1963, killed about 1,100 people, but it is unclear how bad the current situation might get or how long it could last. A worst-case scenario would involve an explosive eruption that causes the mountain's cone to collapse."An analogy would be the twin towers collapsing in New York on 9/11," said Richard Arculus, a volcano expert at Australian National University. "You saw people running away from the debris raining down and columns of dust pursuing people down the street. You will not be able to outrun this thing."Indonesian officials first raised the highest alert two months ago when seismic activity increased at the mountain. The activity decreased by late October, and the alert was lowered before being lifted to the highest level again Monday.____Associated Press journalists Ali Kotarumalos and Margie Mason in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kiko Rosario in Bangkok contributed to this report.