Pop­u­la­tions flee threat­en­ing vol­ca­noes

Otago Daily Times - - Weekend World -

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

Spew­ing white smoke and send­ing tremors through the area, Mt 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 had fled be­cause they were un­sure of their prox­im­ity to a 12km ex­clu­sion zone im­posed 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.

One farmer said he was wor­ried lava flows could de­stroy his house and farm.

‘‘If my house is de­stroyed I don’t know how to restart my life. I don’t know where my kids will sleep and all I can do now is pray,’’ Gusti Gege As­tana (40) said.

Of­fi­cials also noted there were about 30,000 cat­tle within the dan­ger zone around the vol­cano, and ef­forts were be­ing made to move the live­stock as it was an im­por­tant source of in­come for many res­i­dents.

More than 1000 peo­ple were killed the last time Mt Agung erupted, in 1963.

PHOTO: REUTERS

PHOTO: REUTERS

An el­derly woman who sur­vived that erup­tion said evac­u­a­tion in­struc­tions had come much ear­lier this time.

‘‘Back then we weren’t evac­u­ated un­til it got re­ally dan­ger­ous. Life went on as nor­mal when ash and gravel was fall­ing on us, un­til the big lava came out and de­stroyed ev­ery­thing,’’ 82­year­old Gusti Ayu Wati said.

Indonesia has nearly 130 ac­tive vol­ca­noes, more than any other coun­try. Many of th­ese show high lev­els of ac­tiv­ity but it can be weeks or much longer be­fore any se­ri­ous erup­tion.

Bali is fa­mous for its beaches and tem­ples and had nearly 5 mil­lion vis­i­tors last year, mainly from China, Aus­tralia, and Ja­pan.

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 yes­ter­day is­sued a state­ment re­as­sur­ing trav­ellers, and not­ing flights were op­er­at­ing nor­mally.

‘‘The is­land is safe ex­cept for ar­eas around Mt Agung. We urge tourists to con­tinue vis­it­ing,’’ it said.

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

The Gov­ern­ment of the Pa­cific is­land na­tion of Van­u­atu

Ahas sent fer­ries, trawlers and other boats to the is­land of Am­bae to evac­u­ate the en­tire pop­u­la­tion be­cause of an erupt­ing vol­cano.

About 11,000 res­i­dents, or roughly 5% of Van­u­atu’s pop­u­la­tion, are be­ing evac­u­ated from the is­land, as a thick layer of vol­canic ash and acid rain blan­kets vil­lages and crops, Radio New Zealand said.

About 8000 peo­ple had al­ready ar­rived at tem­po­rary camps in coastal ar­eas ready to leave af­ter the vol­cano, known as Ma­naro, be­gan to erupt last week.

Manuel Ure, Van­u­atu’s dis­as­ter man­age­ment co­or­di­na­tor on Am­bae, said au­thor­i­ties were hop­ing to clear the whole is­land over the week­end. He told Radio New Zealand Am­bae res­i­dents would be sent to the nearby is­lands of Santo, Pen­te­cost, Malekula and

Maewo.

‘‘We con­tinue to sup­ply them with ba­sic food but at the mo­ment we still have a prob­lem with food, shel­ter and water,’’ he said.

Ge­orgewin Garae, the head of the provin­cial gov­ern­ment on Am­bae, said peo­ple were up­set at hav­ing to leave their homes.

‘‘It is very dev­as­tat­ing, it is very sad, the in­for­ma­tion that was go­ing out yes­ter­day no­ti­fy­ing peo­ple of the move, peo­ple were cry­ing. But then the un­der­stand­ing is that safety comes first,’’ he said.

‘‘We are hope­ful that the ship that is com­ing to­day will pro­vide enough for the re­main­ing two or three days be­fore we evac­u­ate them to the other lo­ca­tions.’’

A state of emer­gency was de­clared on Am­bae ear­lier this week. — Reuters/DPA

Ask­ing for help . . . Ba­li­nese cit­i­zens pray for safety on the beach near Mt Agung, a vol­cano on the high­est alert level, out­side the cur­rent dan­ger zone in Amed, on the re­sort is­land of Bali, Indonesia.

Ac­tive . . . A cloud of smoke rises from from Ma­naro Voui vol­cano on Van­u­atu’s north­ern is­land Am­bae in the South Pa­cific.

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