Situation Monitored in Bali as Agung Volcano Activity Increases

A Balinese man watches Mount Agung volcano almost covered with clouds from a temple in Karangasem (Picture: AP)

Authorities in Indonesia continue to monitor the smoke activity of Mount Agung volcano in Bali by extending the safety buffer zone. But they also reaffirm that the situation is safe for tourists in the south of the island -where most tourist areas such as Nusa Dua, Kuta, Jimbaran or Sanur are located. The South of Bali is 75 km away from the volcano zone…

Nearly 135,000 people on the Indonesian island of Bali have left their homes and taken shelter in makeshift evacuation centers after warnings the Mount Agung volcano could erupt at any time, officials said late on Thursday.

Spewing white smoke and sending tremors through the area, Mount Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest level last week. Since then, tens of thousands of villagers have abandoned their homes beneath the menacing volcano.

The national disaster management agency said many people have fled because they are unsure of their proximity to a 12 km (seven miles) exclusion zone imposed around the crater.

Evacuees are being housed in tents, school gyms, and government buildings in neighboring villages. While there are plentiful stocks of food, water, medicines, and other supplies, evacuees fear they are in for a long wait that could disrupt their livelihoods.

Officials also noted there are around 30,000 cattle within the danger zone around the volcano, and efforts are being made to move the livestock as it is an important source of income for many residents. More than 1,000 people were killed the last time Mount Agung erupted, in 1963.

The situation is closely monitored by tourism authorities as Bali is Indonesia main destination for international travellers. From 12 million annual visitors, over 5 million jet for Bali to enjoy the famous beaches and temples. Bali’s largest groups of visitors come from China PRC, Australia, Japan and Korea.

Some tourists, however, were having second thoughts about their holiday plans after several countries, including Singapore and Australia, issued travel advisories warning of the risk from the volcano.

Bali’s tourism department on Thursday issued a letter reassuring travelers, and noting that flights were operating normally. “The island is safe except for areas around Mount Agung. We urge tourists to continue visiting,” the letter said.

The transportation minister said on Wednesday that Bali-bound flights could be diverted to 10 airports across the country in case of an eruption.

Ash clouds from volcanic eruptions have disrupted tourism in Bali and other parts of Indonesia in recent years. Hundreds of domestic and international flights were disrupted in 2016 when a volcano erupted on Bali’s neighboring Lombok island, sending columns of ash and debris into the air.

(Source: Reuters)