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Volcano in Bali: the smoke thickens, the number of evacuees increases

Ⓒ AFP – BAY ISMOYO – | Smoke escapes from Agung Volcano on 28 September 2017
in Bali, Indonesia

The white smoke escaping from a volcano in Bali has
thickened in recent days, fearing a possible eruption, a
volcanologist said on Friday, while the number of inhabitants
evacuated on the island’s most tourist- Indonesia exceeds
144,000.

Mount Agung, just over 3,000 meters high and located about
75 kilometers from the main tourist destinations of Kuta and
Seminyak, has been rumbling since August and may erupt for the
first time since 1963.

Seismic activity remained high on Friday, with 165
earthquakes recorded between midnight and noon, said the
Indonesian Observatory of Volcanology and Geological
Hazards.

New white smoke emissions at the top of the crater were
detected by satellite monitoring systems. Clouds containing
sulfuric acid vapors have been observed at an altitude ranging
from 50 to 200 meters from the summit, according to the same
source.

Ⓒ AFP – Laurence CHU – | Risk of eruption in Bali

“For now, the probability of a rash is higher than the
reverse,” said Kasbani, director of the observatory, which has
only one surname.

The sulfuric acid vapor that escaped the crater for three
days – thicker than at the beginning of the month – show that
the situation is changing, said another volcanologist, Gede
Suadikan.

“This morning (Friday), the steam came out of the crater
like the smoke of a factory chimney,” making the possibility of
a “more real” eruption, he added.

However, “the situation can change at any time,” according
to the observatory.

The number of people evacuated in recent days continues to
increase. It rose from 122,490 Thursday to 144,389 Friday,
according to local officials. The authorities recommend staying
more than nine kilometers from the crater of the volcano, far
from tourist areas.

About 62,000 people lived in the
danger zone before the evacuations in the Karangasem district,
which is closest to the volcano, according to the National
Disaster Management Agency, but outsiders also left their homes
for fear of ‘an eruption.

Displaced people are welcomed in nearly 500 shelters in nine
districts and some have crossed the Lombok Strait to be
welcomed on the neighboring island of the same name.

Denpasar International Airport, the capital of Bali, which
hosts millions of tourists every year looking for paradise
beaches, is not affected at this time. But the airport
authorities are monitoring the situation closely and
anticipating the possibility of closure.

The Indonesian authorities plan to divert planes bound for
Bali to ten other airports, notably Lombok, but also to the
capital Jakarta, on the island of Java.

In November 2015, Bali airport was
shut down temporarily due to the eruption of a volcano in
Lombok, Mount Rinjani, which had spilled clouds of ash
hazardous to air traffic.

The last eruption of Mount Agung dates back to 1963. The
volcano had spilled ash up to Jakarta, about 1,000 km. Several
eruptions then made a total of 1,600 deaths.

Indonesia is an archipelago of Southeast Asia located on the
Pacific “belt of fire”, where the collision of tectonic plates
causes frequent earthquakes and significant volcanic
activity.

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