Mt Ruang eruption: Passengers stranded in Sabah include umrah pilgrims, wedding party


A crowded Kota Kinabalu International Airport following the cancellation of flights following the Mount Ruang volcano eruption on Tuesday (April 16).

KOTA KINABALU: Hundreds of passengers including those traveling for their umrah pilgrimage were left helpless as flights in and out of Sabah were cancelled following volcanic eruption at Mount Ruang in Indonesia's Sulawesi.

There were little signs of flights resuming anytime Thursday (April 18) amid forecasts that volcanic ash from Mount Ruang was moving towards Sabah's airspace posing danger to aircraft.

Both Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Tawau Airport remained packed with passengers trying to make alternative arrangements, some of whom were seen angry.

Some of the passengers, who turned up around noon, complained that the airline's websites did not update them on the flight cancellations.

It is understood that by 2.30pm, most airlines had updated their websites informing all passengers of the cancellations.

"We can't do much, this is an act of nature. We have been explaining to them that we cannot give any clearance for flights until the authorities give the green light," an airline official said.

Passengers crowding counters at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to get updates of their flights.Passengers crowding counters at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to get updates of their flights.

Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia have cancelled all its flights from KKIA and Tawau.

Only two flights, a Batik Air from Kuala Lumpur and an AirAsia flight from Johor Baru landed in KKIA on Thursday with all other flights cancelled or retimed.

Respective airlines are explaining to passengers many of whom are also waiting for connecting flights from Kuala Lumpur to other international destinations.

As of 3pm, most skies over Sabah including east coast Tawau (closest to Sulawesi) remained clear with no signs of the ashes from the volcano blown into the atmosphere.

One passenger who was heading to Makkah for umrah voiced concern over whether their group could connect with an international flight from Kuala Lumpur scheduled for Friday (April 19).

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang eruption: Passengers at Kota Kinabalu airport caught in limbo

"We are all praying," said the passenger who was part of a group of 24.

Meanwhile, Rusnih Majid, 65, from Kampung Luagan Sanginan, Beaufort, along with 16 family members, including the groom's mother, were scheduled to leave for Kuching on a 12.30 pm Firefly flight for a wedding, but it was cancelled and rescheduled, Bernama reported.

She said that they had left Beaufort as early as 6am, and only found out about the rescheduling when they arrived at KKIA at about 9am.

"It's disappointing because we came from far away (Beaufort), the family from Labuan is also here with us, we are going to attend my sister’s son's wedding,” she told Bernama here Thursday.

Passengers crowding counters at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to get updates of their flights.Passengers crowding counters at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport to get updates of their flights.

Rusnih, however, hopes that the situation will improve and that the family will be able to attend her nephew's wedding ceremony which will take place this Saturday (April 20).

"The airline staff cannot cope. I don't get answers, Only telling us all flights were cancelled for today and they will update us," said a passenger who wanted to be identified only as Rahman.

Rahman said he understands that the circumstances for the cancellations were beyond the control of airlines but he hoped that all passengers would be informed and given ample time if the flights were reinstated.

ALSO READ: AirAsia cancels Sabah, Sarawak flights due to Sulawesi volcano eruption

A Malaysia Airlines flight ferrying the body of veteran Sabah politician Tan Sri Joseph Kurup was also affected by the cancellations.

According to officials from the family, Kurup's body was scheduled to leave KLIA on MH7404 at 7.15am but the flight was cancelled.

They said MAS was trying to place Kurup's body on the earliest flight available.

A crowded Kota Kinabalu International Airport following the cancellation of flights following the Mount Ruang volcano eruption on Tuesday (April 16).A crowded Kota Kinabalu International Airport following the cancellation of flights following the Mount Ruang volcano eruption on Tuesday (April 16).

Kurup, 80, passed away Wednesday night at the National Heart Institute (IJN).

More than 20 flights in and out of KKIA and Tawau to various destinations had been affected by this measure so far.

Mount Ruang first erupted at 9.45pm on Tuesday and continued to spew columns of ashes more than a mile into the sky.

Hundreds of people have evacuated their homes.

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Stranded , Kota Kinabalu , Volcano , Mt Ruan , Eruption

   

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