THE tourist-heavy island of Bali in Indonesia was issued the highest possible alert status amid an active volcano that meant that it could “erupt at any moment”.
According to a Reuters report, thousands of residents were evacuated from villages near Mount Agung on Friday, and authorities warned tourists and residents to avoid camping or hiking within a 9km radius of the crater as seismic tremors rattled some areas and smoke rose above Bali.
At the moment, the number of evacuees scaled 34,000, but the number is expected to rise, officials said.
“Volcanic activity remains high and there are indications of magma rising to the surface and causing tremors,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Management Agency.
“There should be zero public activity within the specified radius in case there is an eruption,” Nugroho said.
However, flights at Bali’s international airport were operating as normal and there was little disruption to tourism operators across the rest of the island, authorities said.
Phil Sylvester from Travel Insurance Direct told news.com.au (via the Associated Press) that last year’s eruption of Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok, which left 1,000 people stranded on the mountain when it erupted despite warnings to stay away, should serve as a lesson.
“The ash cloud caused the closure of Denpasar airport for weeks at a time and thousands of people were stranded, either unable to come home or unable to get to their holiday. School holidays start next week, Bali is going to be chockers full,” he said.
Mount Agung hasn’t erupted for more than 50 years but this time, it has been rumbling since August. A series of eruptions here between 1963 and 1964 killed more than 1,000 people and injured hundreds.
Additional reporting by Reuters