Asean Fo­cus In­done­sian of­fi­cial: More than 120,000 flee Bali vol­cano

THE MYAN­MAR TIMES

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Asean Focus - 14 SEPTEM­BER 29, 2017

MORE than 120,000 peo­ple have fled the re­gion around the Mount Agung vol­cano on the In­done­sian tourist is­land of Bali, fear­ing it will soon erupt, an of­fi­cial said Thurs­day.

The dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion agency’s com­mand post in Bali said the num­ber of evac­uees has swelled to about 122,500. The fig­ure is more than dou­ble the es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion within an im­me­di­ate dan­ger zone but peo­ple fur­ther away are leav­ing too.

Those who have fled are scat­tered in more than 500 lo­ca­tions across the is­land famed for its beaches, lush green in­te­rior and el­e­gant Hindu cul­ture, tak­ing shel­ter in tem­po­rary camps, sports cen­tres and other pub­lic build­ings.

The vol­cano has been at its high­est alert level since Septem­ber 22, spark­ing the mas­sive ex­o­dus of vil­lagers. Thou­sands of cows left be­hind by ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties are also be­ing evac­u­ated.

The ex­clu­sion zone around the moun­tain ex­tends as far as 12 kilo­me­tres from the crater in places.

“I was very wor­ried about the sit­u­a­tion” said Ny­oman Suarta, who was leav­ing a vil­lage a few kilo­me­tres out­side the of­fi­cial no-go ra­dius. “So I de­cided to get out to save my­self with my stuff and my pet,” he said, car­ry­ing a bird in a cage.

Agung, which dom­i­nates the land­scape in the north­east of the is­land, last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1100 peo­ple. It re­mained ac­tive for about a year.

Vol­ca­nol­o­gists say the past week’s dra­matic es­ca­la­tion in tremors in­di­cates an erup­tion is more likely than not, but they can’t say with cer­tainty when it will hap­pen.

“I would def­i­nitely be fol­low­ing the ad­vice to stay out­side the ex­clu­sion zone,” said Heather Han­d­ley, an as­sis­tant Earth sciences pro­fes­sor at Syd­ney’s Mac­quarie Univer­sity. The in­crease in tremors sug­gests an erup­tion is “im­mi­nent,” she said.

Its erup­tions in 1963 pro­duced deadly clouds of sear­ing hot ash, gases and rock fragments that trav­eled down its slopes at great speed. Lava spread for sev­eral kilo­me­tres and peo­ple were also killed by la­hars – rivers of wa­ter and vol­canic de­bris.

Of­fi­cials this week in­stalled warn­ing sirens in sev­eral town­ships.

“If Mount Agung erupts, I’m in charge of press­ing the alarm but­ton,” said Ny­oman Kasna, a lo­cal of­fi­cial. “Sirens will sound and tell the com­mu­nity the moun­tain has erupted.”

Agung, about 70km to the north­east of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 ac­tive vol­ca­noes in In­done­sia.

An­other vol­cano, Mount Sinabung on Su­ma­tra, has been erupt­ing spo­rad­i­cally since 2010, some­times blast­ing vol­canic ash sev­eral kilo­me­tres into the air and forc­ing more than 30,000 to evac­u­ate their vil­lages.

In­done­sia, an ar­chi­pel­ago of thou­sands of is­lands, is prone to seis­mic up­heaval due to its lo­ca­tion on the Pa­cific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of vol­ca­noes and fault lines en­cir­cling the Pa­cific Basin. – AP

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