Bali volcano: Indonesia issues highest possible alert as huge volcano seems set to blow


Thousands of villagers on the Indonesian resort island of Bali are sheltering amid fears 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 on Friday following a "tremendous increase" in seismic activity.

It last erupted in 1963, killing 1,100 people.

Made Suda said he left overnight with 25 family members to stay in the Klungkung sports centre. Others have taken refuge in village halls and with relatives.

He said: "I feel grief and fear, feel sad about leaving the village and leaving four cows."

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no-one should be within 9km (6 miles) of the crater and 12km (7.5 miles) to the north, north-east, south-east and south-southwest.

Waskita Sutadewa, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency in Karangasem district around Mount Agung, 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 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 11.30pm we said 'we have to leave' and many other people in our area were also leaving."

In its last eruption in 1963, the 3,031m (9,944 feet) Agung hurled ash as high as 10km (6 miles) and remained active for about a year.

The mountain, 72km (45 miles) to the north-east of the tourist hotspot 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.