Bali: Over 75,000 evacuated as volcano could erupt in a ‘matter of hours’

Mount Agung in Bali, is currently experiencing unprecedented levels of seismic activity, with experts claiming that they have 'never recorded such high energy or siesmicity'

26 September 2017, 3:24pm
Children being evacuated from the area around Mount Agung (Photo: Made Nagi/EPA
Children being evacuated from the area around Mount Agung (Photo: Made Nagi/EPA
Currently, Mount Agung in Bali, is experiencing unprecedented levels of seismic activity and could erupt in a “matter of hours” if tremors continue, according to Indonesia’s volcanology centre.

Over 75,000 people have been evacuated in the last few days.

“Instrumentally we have never recorded such high energy or seismicity from Mount Agung,” said Devy Kamil Syahbana, a seismologist from Indonesia’s centre for volcanology and geological hazard mitigation.

Data has showed that Mount Agung, the highest point of the island, experienced 844 volcanic earthquakes on Monday alone, and 300-400 quakes by midday on Tuesday, he said.

“We need to pay attention, because these kinds of earthquakes indicate the movement of magma and increase the probability of an eruption”.

Those who have been evacuated have sought shelter in village halls, sports centres and in the homes of relatives in over nine districts. President Joko Widodo is scheduled to visit the evacuees at several camps on Tuesday.

Authorities have urged people to stay out the danger zone, a designated five to seven-mile radius of the volcano.

The increasing frequency of deep and shallow volcanic earthquakes, as well as local tectonic tremors, is an indication that magma continues to move toward the surface. The alert status of Agung was raised to the highest possible level on Friday evening, following a spike in seismic activity.

“There is no volcanologist in the world who could predict precisely when a volcano will erupt,” said head of the volcanology centre. “Volcanoes are a stochastic system, many complexities are unknown by the human brain and technology.”

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, when over 1000 people were killed. That event was preceded by an increased frequency in earthquakes.

One of the difficulties in predicting the likelihood and timing of an eruption on Agung is that monitoring of the volcano only began after the 1963 eruption.

 “For Agung we have no instrumental documentation,” said Syahbana. “The only records that we have is of the phenomena that were observed and reported by people around the volcano prior to the 1963 eruption.”

Bali’s Ngurah Rai international airport, which is about 47 miles from the volcano, remains open, with flights running as normal on Tuesday.

In the event of an eruption and ash clouds that could disrupt air travel, authorities have made preparations for flights to be diverted to seven regional airports, including on Java and Lombok islands.

The UK, Australia and the US are among several countries that have issued travel advisories in recent days, warning that volcanic activity on Agung could interfere with travel plans.

Mount Agung is one of many active volcanoes in the ring of fire, a string of volcanoes and seismic activity that runs through the Indonesian archipelago and the edges of the Pacific Ocean.