AS INDONESIA’S Mount Agung Volcano in Bali carries on firing out amber lava and creating dangerous clouds of gaseous sulfur, Mother Nature once again reminds us of the unpredictability that can alter holiday plans and disrupt communities.
The island of Bali has long been a paradise destination for tourists wanting to soak up sun, sea and culture. However, the eruption of the volcano, found on the North-East coast of Bali has caused mass panic, flight delays and cancellations, health issues and the stranding of thousands of tourist and residents.
This is the first time this volcano has erupted in over half a century, and people are being warned against traveling to the island, “the danger zone affects 22 villages and about 90,000 to 100,000 people,” Indonesian government spokesperson, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta.
“About 40,000 people have already evacuated but others have not left because they feel safe or don’t want to abandon their livestock.”
However, this isn’t the first time Asia has come under attack from lava and ash clouds that blacken the sky. Since the 1600s, 278,800 volcano-associated fatalities have been recorded worldwide, with most of these incidences taking place in Asia.
Indonesia has 139 volcanoes, making it third on the list of countries with most active and non-active volcanoes. Japan comes in behind Indonesia with 112, Papua New Guinea as 53 and the Philippines has 50 – making Asia the most dominant continent on the list.
Japan’s Sakurajima volcano is often thought of as one of the world’s most active and impressive volcanoes. In 1914 the molten lava that flowed from its crater caused the former island to attach to the mainland peninsula of Osumi.
Many volcanoes have populations of people living on their bases as the soil is rich and nutritious and geothermal energy can be harvested from the underground steam. However, living at the base of a volcano comes with risks – risks that couldn’t be more real for the 3.6 million population that live just 32 kilometers south of Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Mount Merapi is Indonesia’s most active volcano, often blasting off pyroclastic flows which consist of super-heated gases and rock particles. These are deadly and unpredictable – so much so, a blast in 1994 killed 64 people.
So far, there have not been any sanctions set by governments against traveling to Bali, so tour operators do not legally have to refund or reschedule customers travel plans. Bali airport has shut, and a predicted 59,000 people are stranded with no foresight as to when the chaos-causing dust will settle.
“Our starting point would be that we’d expect the activity to play out over the next few weeks to months,” David Pyle, professor in earth sciences at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian.