Indonesia narrows down exclusion zone around Bali’s Mount Agung

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THE exclusion zone around Mount Agung’s active volcano in Bali, Indonesia was narrowed down on Thursday and authorities have allowed farmers to return to their homes.

While the 3,000m Mount Agung remains on alert for a major eruption, officials said the danger zone around the crater would be reduced to a 6km (4mile) radius from 10 km.

“Mount Agung remains in an eruption phase and could affect settlements. All parties are urged to remain cautious,” Agung Pribadi, press relations officer at the natural resources ministry, said in a statement.

The volcano has been spewing lava and ash since late November, when authorities raised the alert status to the highest.

Bali airport was closed for three days, leaving thousands of tourists stranded and prompting others to cancel their year-end holiday plans.

While the exclusion zone has shrunk, authorities are still not allowing tourists to climb up the scenic mountain.

Two Australian citizens found this out the hard way after they were questioned for attempting to hike up Mount Agung on Thursday, local media reported.

A farmer carries a bag of fertilizer as Mount Agung volcano emits smoke in the background from Sidemen Village, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia, Dec 6, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Source: Reuters

According to the Jakarta Post, Ricky Tonacia, 34, and Jack Dennaro, 26, were stopped by authorities when they started to hike the volcano, ignoring warnings.

“My intention was to see the top of the volcano,” Tonacia said.

Karangasem Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Wayan Gede Ardana was quoted as saying Australians made the attempt at about 1am local time

Leaving from Canggu, the two travelled to Karangasem, in South Bali. Their driver had reportedly warned them not to go, but they did not take heed of his words.

“They knew people had been banned from hiking the volcano. But they insisted on doing so,” Ardana said.

The men were caught when their driver and guide came to pick them up at around 10am.

“We only interrogated them and warned them not to do it again,” Ardana said.

The two were released after an hour of interrogation.

“They failed to reach the summit. At the halfway point, they decided to go back down because of bad weather. They were not able to see anything because of thick fog,” said community leader Gede Pawana.

Additional reporting by Reuters