Authorities in Indonesia on Monday raised the alert for Bali’s Mount Agung volcano to the highest level of four. The government has asked residents that they should immediately evacuate the areas near the summit, giving them a warning that there was an “imminent” risk of a larger eruption. It ordered the people within 10 kms of the volcano to leave their homes as soon as possible.
“Continuing plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to 12 km (seven miles) from the peak,” the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement. It said that as many as 100,000 villagers needed to leave the expanded danger zone around the Mount Agung volcano on Bali, but that less than half that number have left.
Spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta that the extension of the danger zone to 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the crater in places affects 22 villages and about 90,000 to 100,000 people. He added that about 40,000 people have been evacuated but others have not left because they feel safe or don’t want to abandon their livestock.
Nugroho said officials were responding based on a worst-case scenario occurring because Agung has a history of violent eruptions. Its last major eruption in 1963 had claimed about 1,100 people.
The formation of ash clouds lead to the closure of the Bali airport, causing delays across the nation. Bali is a hub airport in Indonesia with many flights transiting there for domestic as well as international destinations. Planes that would have flown other routes Monday are now stuck on the tarmac in Bali, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.
Governments of some nations also advised citizens to avoid travelling to the island nation. While Malaysia’s foreign ministry said all but non-urgent travel plans should be delayed, Australia told its peole to be aware of the ash clouds, which could also spread to other airports in Indonesia depending on the weather conditions.
AP reported that the closure of the airport had a disruptive effect on flights around Indonesia and the surrounding regions. It however, said that travellers could still leave Bali by taking a ferry from Gilimanuk port to Banyuwangi on Java island to the west and then traveling by car, train or plane to the Indonesian capital Jakarta for international connections. Another possible route is a ferry to the neighboring island of Lombok and then a flight to Java though ash temporarily closed Lombok’s airport on Sunday and there could be further closures.The Chinese consulate on the Indonesian island said on its website that airlines and travel services were arranging 100 buses to take Chinese tourists to catch ferries to neighboring Java
The Bali government also advised citizens to stay away from rivers as cold lava was ploughing down the volcano’s slopes.
Indonesia sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire” and has more than 120 active volcanoes. Mount Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest level in September following a dramatic increase in tremors from the volcano, which doubled the exclusion zone around the crater and prompted more than 140,000 people to leave the area. The alert was lowered on October 29 after a decrease in activity but about 25,000 people remained in evacuation centers.
(With AP inputs)
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