Erup­tion alert

More than 144,000 in Bali flee as fears of vol­cano grow

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

KARANGASEM, In­done­sia — A rum­bling vol­cano on the hol­i­day is­land of Bali is spew­ing steam and sul­furous fumes with more in­ten­sity, height­en­ing fears of an erup­tion as of­fi­cials said the num­ber of evac­uees had topped 144,000.

Mount Agung, 75 kilo­me­ters from the re­sort hub of Kuta, has been shak­ing since Au­gust and threat­en­ing to erupt for the first time since 1963 — a po­ten­tial blow to the is­land’s lu­cra­tive tourism in­dus­try.

The In­done­sian Cen­ter for Vol­canol­ogy and Ge­o­log­i­cal Haz­ard Mit­i­ga­tion said on Fri­day that re­mote satel­lite sens­ing had picked up new steam emis­sions and ther­mal ar­eas within the crater.

White steam clouds — which con­tain sul­furous fumes — have been ob­served ris­ing 50 to 200 me­ters above the sum­mit, the cen­ter said.

“At this mo­ment, the prob­a­bil­ity of an erup­tion is higher than the prob­a­bil­ity of no erup­tion; how­ever, the prob­a­bil­ity may change,” said Kas­bani, the cen­tre’s head vol­ca­nol­o­gist, who like many In­done­sians goes by one name.

An­other of the vol­ca­nol­o­gists at the cen­ter, Gede Suandika, said the more fre­quent emis­sion of sul­furous fumes in the past three days in­di­cated the vol­cano was chang­ing.

“This morn­ing the steam bil­lowed from the crater like the smoke that comes out of a fac­tory chim­ney,” he said.

“Since the sul­furous fumes are out, the pos­si­bil­ity of an erup­tion is get­ting more real.”

Else­where, the threat of a sep­a­rate vol­canic erup­tion on the Pa­cific ar­chi­pel­ago of Van­u­atu prompted au­thor­i­ties on Thurs­day to or­der the com­pul­sory evac­u­a­tion of the en­tire is­land of Am­bae, home to 11,000 peo­ple.

Van­u­atu’s Na­tional Dis­as­ter Man­age­ment Of­fice said it was the first time in liv­ing mem­ory that an is­land’s whole pop­u­la­tion had been moved be­cause of vol­canic ac­tiv­ity.

Plumes of smoke, ash and vol­canic rocks have been filmed erupt­ing from its crater by New Zealand De­fence Force air­craft which flew over the is­land on Tues­day.

The alert level for the erupt­ing vol­cano was raised to four in re­cent days — level five is the high­est — and Van­u­atu’s Me­te­o­rol­ogy and Geo­haz­ards Depart­ment warned of fly­ing rocks, vol­canic gas, acid rain and ash falls.


Vil­lagers gather at a tem­po­rary evac­u­a­tion cen­ter near Mount Agung vol­cano in Bali, In­done­sia, on Thurs­day.

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