Volcano gushing ash over Bali closes airport for a 2nd day

Published: Monday, November 27, 2017 @ 12:50 AM
Updated: Monday, November 27, 2017 @ 12:48 AM

A volcano gushing towering columns of ash closed the airport on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali for a second day Tuesday, disrupting travel for tens of thousands, as authorities renewed their warnings for villagers to evacuate.

Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark gray ash about 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) above its cone since the weekend and lava is welling in the crater, sometimes reflected as an orange-red glow in the ash plumes. Its explosions can be heard about 12 kilometers (7 1/2 miles) away.

The local airport authority said Tuesday that closure for another 24 hours was required for safety reasons. Volcanic ash poses a deadly threat to aircraft, and ash from Agung is moving south-southwest toward the airport. Ash has reached a height of about 30,000 feet as it drifts across the island.

"I don't know, we can't change it," said stranded German tourist Gina Camp, sitting on a bench at the airport. "It's the nature and we have to wait until it's over."

She decided to look on the bright side, saying she planned to go back outside to enjoy another day on the island.

Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the volcano's alert to the highest level Monday and expanded an exclusion zone to 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the crater in places from the previous 7 1/2 kilometers. It said a larger eruption is possible, though a top government volcanologist has also said the volcano could continue for weeks at its current level of activity and not erupt explosively.

Agung's last major eruption in 1963 killed about 1,100 people.

Authorities have told 100,000 people to leave homes that are in close proximity to the volcano, though as of Monday tens of thousands stayed because they felt safe or didn't want to abandon livestock. They have also warned people of the danger of mudflows from the volcano as it's now rainy season in Bali.

Villager Putu Sulasmi said she fled with her husband and other family members to a sports hall that is serving as an evacuation center.

"We came here on motorcycles. We had to evacuate because our house is just 3 miles from the mountain. We were so scared with the thundering sound and red light," she said.

The family had stayed at the same sports center in September and October when the volcano's activity was high but it didn't erupt then. They had returned to their village about a week ago.

"If it has to erupt, let it erupt now rather than leaving us in uncertainty. I'll just accept it if our house is destroyed," she said.

Volcanologist Erik Klemetti at Dennison University in Ohio said Agung's 1963 eruption was big enough to cool the earth slightly but it's unclear whether this time it will have a similar major eruption or simmer for a prolonged period.

"A lot of what will happen depends on the magma underneath and what it is doing now," he said.

The closure of the airport has stranded tens of thousands of travelers, affecting tourists already on Bali and people who were ready to fly to the island from abroad or within Indonesia. Airport spokesman Ari Ahsanurrohim said more than 440 inward and outward flights were canceled Tuesday and about 59,500 travelers were affected, similar numbers to Monday.

Bali is Indonesia's top tourist destination, with its Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior attracting about 5 million visitors a year.

A Chinese tour service, Shenzhen PT Lebali International, had about 20 groups totaling 500 to 600 travelers from the Chinese cities of Wuhan, Changsha and Guangzhou in Bali, according an executive, Liao Yuling, who was on the island.

"They are mostly retirees or relatively high-end, so they don't say they are especially anxious to rush home," she said by telephone.

If the airport stays closed, Liao said they would head by ferry and bus to Surabaya on Java where the company's charter flights could pick them up.

"We are not really affected, because the volcano is too far away," said Liao. "We only can say we saw pictures of it on television."

Indonesia's Directorate General of Land Transportation said 100 buses were deployed to Bali's international airport and to ferry terminals to help travelers stranded by the eruption.

The agency's chief, Budi, said major ferry crossing points have been advised to prepare for a surge in passengers and vehicles. Stranded tourists could leave Bali by taking a ferry to Java and then traveling by land to the nearest airports.

Ash has settled on villages and resorts around the volcano and disrupted daily life outside the immediate danger zone.

"Ash that covered the trees and grass is very difficult for us because the cows cannot eat," said Made Kerta Kartika from Buana Giri village. "I have to move the cows from this village."

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes.

___

Wright reported from Jakarta. Associated Press writers Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Joe McDonald in Beijing and Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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Here's how to track the Tesla Roadster in space

Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 3:02 PM

VIDEO: ‘Starman’ Rockets Through Space in Tesla Roadster

The Tesla Roadster launched into orbit Wednesday can be tracked in space, thanks to NASA designating it a manmade celestial object.

Space enthusiasts can search for "SpaceX Roadster" in the Horizons system created by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to track its movement.

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The Virtual Telescope Project is also tracking the Tesla Roadster's space journey.

Scientists mapping the car's long-term path told Popular Mechanics that the car will do an "Earth flyby" in 2026, 2031 and 2039.

The Falcon Heavy rocket launched Wednesday as part of Elon Musk’s ambitious SpaceX project.

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Facebook unveils parent-controlled messenger app just for kids

Published: Tuesday, December 05, 2017 @ 1:38 AM

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Facebook on Monday announced it would be rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids in the United States, a new parent-controlled app to make it easier for kids to video chat and message with loved ones.

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In a company blog post, Antigone Davis – public policy director and global head of safety at Facebook – wrote that the media site has been working on the product for the past 18 months, working closely with leading child development experts, parents and educators.

Davis named some reasons Facebook decided to create Messenger Kids and why they decided to create it right now.

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She cited research that shows some 93 percent of U.S. kids ages six to 12 have access to tablets or smartphones — and 66 percent have their own device, often using apps meant for teens and adults.

In a collaboration with the National Parent Teacher Association on a study with more than 1,200 American parents of children under the age of 13, Facebook found three out of every five parents surveyed said their kids under 13 use messaging apps, social media or both, while 81 percent reported their children started using social media between the ages of 8 and 13.

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Kids said they want to use the platforms to have fun and connect with family. But safety is a growing concern among parents.

“My concern is safety, getting friend requests from people you don’t know, chatting with people you don’t know, giving out information to strangers,” one parent participant in the National PTA roundtable said.

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With the guidance of experts at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Center on Media and Child Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics among others, Facebook developed a set of principles for Messenger Kids:

  1. Putting kids first
  2. Providing a safe space that fosters joy, humor, play and adventure
  3. Enabling kids to mine their own potential by building for empowerment, creativity and expression
  4. Helping kids build a sense of self and community
  5. Recognizing the relationship between parent and child, and that we take our responsibility and their trust in us seriously.

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“We created Messenger Kids with the belief that parents are ultimately the best judges of their kids’ technology use, and the parents we’ve spoken to have asked for a better way to control the way their children message,” Davis wrote.

Because research on the long-term effects of screen time and technology on children is still limited, Facebook also announced a $1 million research fund to work with experts to explore the growing concerns.

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About the new Messenger Kids app

The Messenger Kids app, aimed at kids ages 6-12, rolled out Monday on iOS in the U.S. An Android version is coming soon.

It’s important to note that kids under 13 are still not allowed to sign up for a Facebook account. Instead, parents can download the app on their child’s iPhone or iPad, create their profile and approve friends and family for their kids to chat with directly from the main Messenger app.

Kids will not show up in Facebook search results, so if a kid wants to chat with a friend, the parent will have to work with the friend’s parent to get them both approved. “This is by far the most clumsy part of Messenger Kids,” TechCrunch reported.

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Facebook added special proactive detection safety filters to prevent children from sharing sexual content, nudity or violence. A dedicated support team will work 24/7 to address any flagged issues. Parents won’t be able to spy on their kids’ chats.

To ensure an enjoyable experience, the company created a kid-friendly version of the Giphy GIF sharing engine. Kids can also play around with augmented reality masks and stickers, including fidget spinners and dinosaur AR masks.

According to TechCrunch, Facebook will not be directly monetizing the kids app, but hopes they will become dedicated Facebook users in the future.

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Apple on track to test self-driving cars in California

Published: Monday, April 17, 2017 @ 12:23 PM

The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car, a self-driving, hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid, makes its debut at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. Apple is set to debut a self-driving car after obtaining permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images
The Mercedes-Benz F015 Luxury in Motion concept car, a self-driving, hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid, makes its debut at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show. Apple is set to debut a self-driving car after obtaining permits from the California Department of Motor Vehicles.(Chris Farina/Corbis via Getty Images)

Apple is on track to begin testing self-driving cars in California. 

The tech giant was added to a long list of companies on the California Department of Motor Vehicles website that hold permits for the state’s Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program.

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Apple, traditionally highly secretive about its technology, joins companies like Google, Tesla, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and others, that are testing autonomous driving technology.

Apple’s permit allows it to test three 2015 Lexus SUVs vehicles retrofitted with self-driving technology, and covers six human operators, who must be in the SUV during testing, according to Fox Business.

The company has been highly secretive about its autonomous driving program, called Project Titan, and is not commenting on the new permit.

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23andme cleared by FDA to offer genetic health risk tests

Published: Friday, April 07, 2017 @ 1:36 PM

FILE - In this Feb. 20 2013 file photo, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki speaks at an announcement for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences at Genentech Hall on UCSF's Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
Jeff Chiu/AP
FILE - In this Feb. 20 2013 file photo, 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki speaks at an announcement for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences at Genentech Hall on UCSF's Mission Bay campus in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)(Jeff Chiu/AP)

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized 23andme, a personal genomics company, to offer disease-risk predicting tests directly to consumers without a prescription.

The approval comes after a lengthy battle that began in 2013 when the FDA forced 23andme to remove all 254 of its genetic health risk tests from the market, according to Forbes. 23andme uses a consumer's saliva sample to run genetic tests. 

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Since that 2013 ruling, genetic testing results have appeared in respected medical journals, and the concept of genomic risk is more accepted by the scientific community. Critics caution that consumers may take the results too literally, instead of as one piece of their health puzzle, and undergo unnecessary tests or procedures. 

The new FDA ruling allows 23andme to provide 10 genetic health risk tests for conditions ranging from late-onset Alzheimer's disease to celiac disease. The ruling also grants an exemption which could approve further genetic risk tests by 23andme more quickly.

“The FDA has embraced innovation and has empowered people by authorizing direct access to this information,” said 23andMe co-founder and CEO Anne Wojcicki in a company press release.

The new tests will begin to roll out this month and will be available to new customers immediately. Current customers will be notified of test availability. 

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