More than 134,000 flee Bali amid erup­tion fears

Marked in­crease in tremors dur­ing past week

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS - STephen WrighT

More than 130,000 peo­ple have fled the re­gion around the Mount Agung vol­cano on the In­done­sian tourist is­land of Bali, fear­ing it will soon erupt.

The dis­as­ter mit­i­ga­tion agency’s com­mand post in Bali said the num­ber of evac­uees has swelled to about 134,200 by Thurs­day evening. That is more than dou­ble the es­ti­mated pop­u­la­tion within the im­me­di­ate dan­ger zone, but peo­ple far­ther from the moun­tain are leav­ing too.

Those who have fled are scat­tered in more than 500 lo­ca­tions across the is­land, tak­ing shel­ter in tem­po­rary camps, sports cen­tres and other pub­lic build­ings.

The vol­cano has been at its high­est alert level for a week, spark­ing the ex­o­dus. Thou­sands of cows were left be­hind in the ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties where farm­ing is an im­por­tant liveli­hood, but lo­cal an­i­mal hus­bandry of­fi­cials were ar­rang­ing trucks to re­move them.

The ex­clu­sion zone around the moun­tain ex­tends as far as 12km – 7.5 miles – from the crater in places. The lo­cal ob­ser­va­tory re­ported a small plume most likely of wa­ter vapour af­ter day­break yes­ter­day, but no ash cloud.

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

Agung, which dom­i­nates the land­scape in the north-east of the is­land, last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,100 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 can­not say with cer­tainty when it will hap­pen.

Heather Han­d­ley, an as­sis­tant Earth sci­ences pro­fes­sor at Syd­ney’s Mac­quarie Univer­sity said the in­crease in tremors sug­gests an erup­tion is “im­mi­nent”.

Its erup­tions in 1963 pro­duced deadly clouds of sear­ing hot ash, gases and rock frag­ments that trav­elled 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.”

Pic­ture: Getty.

A Ba­li­nese man pre­pares for prayer with Mount Agung in the back­ground.

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