Bali urges tourists to continue visiting amid volcano fears

Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level, is seen as fisherman walks on the beach with some of his catch in Amed. Source: Reuters

BALI’S tourism department on Thursday issued a letter reassuring travelers about the their fears about the Mount Agung’s imminent eruption, and noting that flights were operating normally.

“The island is safe except for areas around Mount Agung. We urge tourists to continue visiting,” the letter said.

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

SEE ALSO: Tourists have ‘second thoughts’ about Bali after volcano warning

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.

Volcanic tremors and billowing white smoke have caused alarm in the last few days, prompting the evacuation of some 104,000 villagers from the paddy fields at the base of the forested slopes of the mountain.

The national disaster management agency has housed evacuees 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 that 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,” said Gusti Gege Astana, 40.

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

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 even months before an actual eruption.

Ash clouds from volcanic eruptions have disrupted tourism in Bali and other parts of Indonesia in recent years. Hundreds of domestic and international flights were disrupted in 2016 when a volcano erupted on Bali’s neighbouring Lombok island, sending columns of ash and debris into the air.

Additional reporting by Reuters.