Possibility of Mount Agung's eruption forces 76,000 to evacuate

Bali's Mount Agung to erupt after 55 years, posing possible threat to the locals and tourists alike and has forced 76,000 people to evacuate based on an emergency alert declared by the authorities.

The Villarrica Volcano is seen at night from Pucon town
Picture for representation Reuters

Nearly 76,000 people have evacuated areas around Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia which now stores high possibility of a sudden eruption. President Joko Widodo visited the evacuees in relief shelters on September 26.

The number of people fleeing the much talked about holiday destination jumped from 48,000 earlier this week. Relief operations have commenced with vehicles delivering more food, face masks, and bedding to the evacuees.

"It is not easy to handle a volcanic eruption because there is no certainty when it's going to happen, or if it's going to happen at all" said President Widodo, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

The group of evacuees consists of residents from the primary evacuation zone, covering 9km and 12km from the center of the volcano.

Officials and geologists have asserted the fact that Bali's Mount Agung was at a similar "critical stage" when it last erupted 55 years ago.

"The (9km to 12km) radius lines, within which residents are recommended to leave, are easy to see on the map, but on the ground it is not that easy. Many of the residents outside the radius who are not sure have opted to also leave," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia's national disaster management agency (BNPB).

Bali's capital, Denpasar, its international airport and the most favorite holiday destination Kuta Beach although is located 70km away from the volcano is vulnerable to thick ash clouds which arise from volcanic eruptions.

Singapore based airlines including Singapore Airlines, Scoot, AirAsia and Jetstar stated that their flights were operating normally yesterday and that they are monitoring the situation closely.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has 127 active volcanoes, carrying the weight of 13 percent of the world's volcanoes. Mount Agung and Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra are at Stage 4 alert level, which is the highest level, asserting an imminent eruption.

Indonesian chief volcanologist I Gede Wantika confirmed that the rocks blocking the magma have created thick layers inside Mount Agung thus making it a "strong volcano".

"For Mount Agung, an eruption may occur after 2,000 tremors or more a day, while others like Mount Merapi or Mount Kelud, could erupt only after a few tremors a day," he told Elshinta radio, based in Jakarta.

BNPB declared on Monday, September 25 that Mount Agung had reached a "critical stage" as 500 tremors were recorded in a day.

The eruption in 1963 killed as many as 1,549 people and forced 100,000 to flee their homes.

BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho earlier said that if Bali's Ngurah Rai airport has to be closed flights will reroute to nearby airports. These include the airports in Semarang, Yogyakarta and Solo in Indonesia's main island of Java, Surabaya in East Java province and Lombok, an island to the east of Bali.