Indonesia orders 100,000 to evacuate from volcano zone, shuts Bali airport
Some 100,000 people must evacuate from the danger zone around a rumbling volcano on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, officials said Monday after warning of an imminent eruption.
Some 40,000 people have already left communities near Mount Agung but that figure is set to more than double, the Disaster Mitigation Agency said.
Massive columns of thick grey smoke have been pouring out of Mount Agung since last week and they shot more than two miles (three kilometers) into the sky early Monday, prompting the island’s international airport to be closed, leaving thousands of tourists stranded.
Agung started rumbling again last week and so-called cold lava flows appeared Monday. They are similar to mud flows and are often a prelude to the blazing orange lava seen during many volcanic eruptions.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the alert to the highest level early Monday and expanded the danger zone to 10 kilometers (6 miles) in places from the previous maximum of 7.5 kilometers. It said in a statement that a larger eruption is possible.
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.
“Authorities will comb the area to persuade them,” he said. “If needed we will forcibly evacuate them.”
About 25,000 people were already living in evacuation centers after an increase in tremors from the mountain in September sparked an evacuation.
Bali’s airport was closed early Monday after ash reached its airspace. Flight information boards showed rows of cancelations as tourists arrived at the busy airport expecting to catch flights home.
Airport spokesman Air Ahsanurrohim said 445 flights were canceled, stranding about 59,000 travelers. The closure is in effect until Tuesday morning though officials said the situation will be reviewed every six hours.
Mount Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest level in September following a dramatic increase in tremors from the volcano, which doubled the exclusion zone around the crater and prompted more than 140,000 people to leave the area.
The alert was lowered on Oct. 29 after a decrease in activity but about 25,000 people remained in evacuation centers.