Thousands in Indonesia flee Bali island as authorities raise volcano alert status to highest level

Bali: Thousands of villagers on the Indonesian resort island of Bali were sheltering Saturday in sports centers, village halls and with relatives, fearing Mount Agung will erupt for the first time in more than half a century.

Authorities raised the volcano's alert status to the highest level Friday following a "tremendous increase" in seismic activity. It last erupted in 1963, killing 1,100 people.

Rescuers assist villagers who were evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Agung. AP

Rescuers assist villagers who were evacuated from their homes on the slope of Mount Agung. AP

Villager Made Suda said he left overnight with 25 family members to stay in the Klungkung sports center.

"I feel grief and fear, feel sad about leaving the village and leaving four cows because it's empty. Everyone has evacuated," he said Saturday.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no-one should be within 9 kilometers of the crater and within 12 kilometers to the north, northeast, southeast and south-southwest where lava flows or rapidly moving white-hot ash clouds from an eruption could reach.

Waskita Sutadewa, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency in Karangasem district around Mount Agung, has said nearly 11,300 villagers have been officially evacuated.

He said the real number of displaced might be two or three times that, since many have voluntarily fled their homes.

Officials have said there is no current danger to people in other parts of Bali, a popular tourist island famous for its surfing, beaches and elegant Hindu culture.

"I hope the eruption is not too big and hopefully not many houses are destroyed," said Wayan Yuniartini, who left his village on Friday night with family members.

"I was very worried last night," he said. "At 11.30 pm we said 'we have to leave' and many other people in our area were also leaving."

In its last eruption in 1963, the 3,031-meter Agung hurled ash as high as 10 kilometers and remained active for about a year.

The mountain, 72 kilometers to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

The country of thousands of islands is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.


Updated Date: Sep 23, 2017 13:49 PM

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