Tens of thousands flee rumbling Bali volcano

Our Foreign Staff

More than 35,000 people have fled a menacing volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing it will erupt for the first time in more than half a century as increasing tremors rattle the region.

The numbers Sunday from disaster officials are more than double previous estimates and are continuing to rise, they say.

It includes people who left voluntarily as well as those ordered to evacuate from a six to eight mile zone around Mount Agung.

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

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency has praised the welcoming response of local communities on Bali to the flood of evacuees.

Thousands are living in temporary shelters, sport centers, village halls and with relatives or friends.

Villagers eat at an evacuation centre in Karangasem on the Indonesian resort island of Bali  Credit: SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images

Truck driver Wayan Suparta said he and his family left their village three miles from the mountain several days ago, bringing just clothes and blankets to a temporary camp in Rendang.

The 35-year-old said he sold the family's cow because they don't know when they'll be able to return.

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.

A family rest in a tent at an evacuee camp in Klungkung Credit: AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati

In 1963, the 9,944ft Agung hurled ash as high as 12 miles, according to volcanologists, and remained active for about a year. Lava traveled 4.7 miles and ash reached Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, about 620 miles away.

The mountain, 45 miles 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. 

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