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Tourists stranded as ash from volcanic eruption closes Indonesian airports

Thousands of tourists are stranded on three Indonesian islands after ash from an erupting volcano forced the closure of airports and blanketed villages and farmland.

Mount Rinjani on Lombok Island blasted ash and debris 11,000ft into the air, said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman.

The eruption immediately shut down flights at Ngurah Rai international airport in Bali, about 80 miles from Lombok, and Selaparang airport in Mataram, the capital of West Nusatenggara province, which is on Lombok Island.

Blimbingsari airport in Banyuwangi, on the eastern end of main Java Island, was closed later, the Ministry of Transportation said.

The closures affected 692 international and domestic flights, which were either cancelled or delayed from Tuesday to Thursday, the ministry said.

Airlines were told to avoid routes near the mountain and a decision about reopening the airports would be made early on Thursday, said ministry spokesman Julius Barata.

At Bali's airport, many travellers complained about a lack of information on their delayed flights and some were sleeping on benches inside terminals.

Farms and trees around the 12,000ft volcano were covered in thick grey ash, but nearby towns and villages were not in danger, Mr Nugroho said.

Rinjani is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia. The archipelago is prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes because of its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and south-east Asia.

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