Mon. Feb 24th, 2020

Bali Volcano eruption triggers more evacuations


HONG KONG — Officials in Indonesia say 100,000 people on the island of Bali need to be evacuated from a danger zone around the Mount Agung volcano, which has begun erupting and sending dark clouds of ash into the air. [restrict]

The ash forced the closing of the Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar, Bali’s capital. It was scheduled to reopen Tuesday, but that decision could be postponed based on conditions, officials said.

Volcanic activity is now at a very high level, and the probability of a bigger eruption is increasing, Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said. Just how big can’t be determined, in part because there is so little information about what sort of activity came before the last deadly eruption in 1963.

The agency warned of potential hazards including pyroclastic flows — a mix of hot gases, lava fragments and ash — that the volcano could project up to six miles in a few minutes. And heavy ash could fall, blanketing areas up to five feet deep even miles from Mount Agung.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster agency, also warned of the dangers of lahars, volcanic mudflows made up of water, rocks and pyroclastic materials.

Indonesia raised its alert for Mount Agung to the highest level on Monday, and the exclusion zone around the volcano was extended to six miles.

About 25,000 people left their homes after the erupting volcano spewed plumes of ash and steam last week. Mr. Sutopo said Monday at a news conference that the expanding danger zone meant 100,000 would need to evacuate.

Ash from the volcano has reached heights of more than 11,000 feet above the peak, and sounds of rumbling could be heard more than seven miles away, Mr. Sutopo said Monday.

The national disaster agency said more than 400 domestic and international flights would be affected Monday. The resort island of Bali is a main destination in Indonesia, with 40 percent of foreign tourists entering the country there, followed by 30 percent in the capital, Jakarta.

In September about 145,000 people evacuated villages around the volcano after increased seismic activity indicated it could erupt, but most returned home last month as the danger appeared to lessen.

The volcano is in the northeast of the island, about 35 miles from the tourist center of Kuta in the south.

The eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 killed about 1,700 people. [/restrict]