Bali volcano: Cold lava pours down slopes as mass evacuation of 100,000 ordered

·Freelance Writer

Authorities in Indonesia have urged people to stay away from rivers due to cold lava pouring from Mount Agung.

Footage has emerged showing lahar – a type of mudflow made of volcanic debris – pouring through a village from the volcano.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency said: ‘Watch out for lahar floods (cold lava) around Mt Agung. Lahar floods have already occurred in several places on the slopes.’

The government has ordered a mass evacuation of some 100,000 people from an expanded danger zone around the erupting volcano on Bali.

Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 9,800ft into the atmosphere since the weekend and lava is welling up in the crater.

The island’s international airport has been forced to close, stranding tens of thousands of travellers, while explosions from the volcano can be heard as far as 7.5 miles away.

<em>Flights have been cancelled as fears grow the Mount Agung in Bali is close to erupting (AP)</em>
Flights have been cancelled as fears grow the Mount Agung in Bali is close to erupting (AP)
<em>Some 100,000 people have been evacuated after the smoke started to spew (AP)</em>
Some 100,000 people have been evacuated after the smoke started to spew (AP)

Is the volcano likely to erupt?

Videos released by the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (NDMA) showed a mudflow of volcanic debris and water known as a lahar moving down the volcano’s slopes.

It said lahars could increase because it is rainy season, and warned people to stay away from rivers.

The NDMA has raised the volcano’s alert to the highest level and expanded the danger zone to 6 miles in places from the previous 4.7 miles. It said a larger eruption is possible.

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Geologist Mark Tingay, from the University of Adelaide, said that Mount Agung appears to be entering the next phase with a magmatic eruption – where the glow of lava is visible from the crater.

However, he told the BBC that it was too difficult to tell whether the volcano would erupt, adding: “These eruptions can be quite large and extensive and violent, but this could also be a relatively minor eruption over time.”

<em>Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 9,800ft into the atmosphere (AP)</em>
Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 9,800ft into the atmosphere (AP)

What steps have been taken?

NDMA spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told a news conference in Jakarta that the extension of the danger zone affects 22 villages and about 90,000 to 100,000 people. He said some 40,000 people have evacuated but others have not left because they feel safe or do not want to abandon their livestock.

He said: ”Authorities will comb the area to persuade them. If needed we will forcibly evacuate them.”

About 25,000 people were already living in evacuation centres after an increase in tremors from the mountain in September sparked an evacuation.

Villager Putu Sulasmi said she fled with her husband and other family members to a sports hall that is serving as an evacuation centre.

She said: ”We came here on motorcycles. We had to evacuate because our house is just three miles from the mountain. We were so scared with the thundering sound and red light.”

<em>There is a six-mile exclusion zone around the volcano (PA)</em>
There is a six-mile exclusion zone around the volcano (PA)
<em>Residents have been moved to evacuation centres over fears the volcano is about to erupt (AP)</em>
Residents have been moved to evacuation centres over fears the volcano is about to erupt (AP)

How are tourists coping?

Bali is Indonesia’s top tourist destination, with its gentle Hindu culture, surf beaches and lush green interior attracting about five million visitors a year.

Bali’s airport was closed early today after ash, which can pose a deadly threat to aircraft, reached its airspace.

Flight information boards showed rows of cancellations as tourists arrived at the busy airport expecting to catch flights home.

Airport spokesman Air Ahsanurrohim said 445 flights were cancelled, stranding about 59,000 travellers. The closure is in effect until Tuesday morning, although officials said the situation will be reviewed every six hours.

<em>Tourists have been left stranded after flights were cancelled as a result of the volcano danger zone (AP)</em>
Tourists have been left stranded after flights were cancelled as a result of the volcano danger zone (AP)

What travellers need to know

Tourists can still leave Bali, though probably at significant cost, by taking a ferry from Gilimanuk port to Banyuwangi on Java island to the west and then travelling by car, train or plane to the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for international connections.

Another possible route is a ferry to the neighbouring island of Lombok and then a flight to Java, though ash temporarily closed Lombok’s airport on Sunday and there could be further closures.

The government said it has provided 100 buses to transport people from the international airport to ferry ports. Alternatively, visitors could wait to see if the airport reopens, although there are likely to be long waiting lists for flights when it does.

Indonesia’s tourism ministry said member hotels of the Indonesia Hotel and Restaurant Association will provide a night’s free accommodation to guests affected by the airport closure.

<em>Tourists stop to stare at the as cloud from the volcano (AP)</em>
Tourists stop to stare at the as cloud from the volcano (AP)

What about if you are heading to Bali?

Some governments are advising citizens to defer travel to the island. Malaysia’s foreign ministry said all but non-urgent travel should be delayed, while Australia, a big source of tourists for Bali, said people should be aware that ash clouds could also close other airports in Indonesia depending on weather conditions.

A spokesman for major Japanese travel bureau JTB Corp said all tours set to depart from Japan on Monday were cancelled because of the airport closure. Yoshimi Tajima said some people cannot change their travel dates and are switching to other destinations while others are changing the dates.

<em>A woman stands at an evacuated area in Karangasem, Indonesia (AP)</em>
A woman stands at an evacuated area in Karangasem, Indonesia (AP)

When did Mount Agung last erupt?

More than 1,000 people died when the volcano last erupted in 1963. Indonesia is based on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ – an area which is home to over 120 active volcanoes.

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