Bali evacuation centres fill as more flee volcano
NEARLY 135,000 people on the Indonesian island of Bali have fled their homes and taken shelter in makeshift evacuation centres after warnings the Mount Agung volcano could erupt at any time.
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 12km exclusion zone im- posed around the crater.
Evacuees are being housed in tents, school gyms and government buildings in neighbouring 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 1000 people were killed the last time Mount Agung erupted, in 1963. Bali had nearly five million visitors last year, mainly from Australia, China and Japan.
Some tourists, however, were having second thoughts about their holiday plans after Singapore and Australia issued travel advisories warning of the risk from the volcano.
Bali’s tourism department on Thursday issued a letter reassuring travellers, 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. REUTERS