Saturday 20 January 2018

Volcanic eruption imminent in Bali as 50,000 evacuate and tourists leave

The sun sets behind Mount Agung yesterday. Photo: Reuters
The sun sets behind Mount Agung yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Firdia Lisnawati

Nearly 50,000 people have fled the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing an imminent eruption as dozens of tremors rattle the surrounding region.

Waskita Sutadewa, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency in Bali, said people have scattered to all corners of the island and some have crossed to neighbouring island Lombok.

Indonesian authorities raised the volcano's alert status to the highest level on Friday following a dramatic increase in seismic activity. It last erupted in 1963, killing about 1,100 people.

Thousands of evacuees are living in temporary shelters, sports centres, village halls and with relatives or friends.

Some return to the danger zone, which extends up to 12km from the crater, during the day to tend to livestock.

Officials have said there's no immediate threat to tourists, but some are already cutting short their stays in Bali. A significant eruption would force the closure of Bali's international airport, stranding thousands.

"It's obviously an awful thing. We want to get out of here just to be safe," said one Australian woman.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hundreds of thousands of face masks will be distributed as part of government humanitarian assistance that includes thousands of mattresses and blankets. "The chances of an eruption are very high, but we cannot be sure when it will erupt," he said.

"Officers are sweeping the area and are appealing for people to evacuate," he said.

Irish Independent

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