Populations flee threatening volcanoes
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.
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.
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
‘‘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.