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Tuesday, 28 November 2017 01:00

Mass evacuations ordered as highest alert is issued for Bali volcano

About 100,000 residents living near Bali’s Mount Agung volcano were ordered to evacuate, as the first major eruption in 54 years could be “imminent”.

Mount Agung, which rises over eastern Bali to a height of about 3,000 metres, has been spewing volcanic ash with increasing intensity since last Tuesday, November 21. After confirmation that the volcano was shifting into the magmatic phase, Indonesian authorities raised the warning level to the maximum of 4 on Monday morning, calling for mass evacuations and ordering closure of Bali’s airport.

“Plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak,” the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement after raising the alert from three to its highest level of four.

“The potential for a larger eruption is imminent,” it said, referring to a visible glow of magma at Mount Agung’s peak during Monday night, and urged people to immediately leave the designated exclusion zone, which has been extended to an 8-10km radius of the volcano. Up to 40,000 people have been evacuated so far, while thousands more still need to move.

Authorities also warned of dangerous mudflows. A video released by the BNPB showed water and volcanic debris flowing down the slopes of Mount Agung as rain fell on the island.

In 1963, an eruption of Agung killed more than 1,000 people and destroyed several villages. According to Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Centre (PVMBG), which is using drones, satellite imagery and other equipment, predictions are difficult in the absence of instrumental recordings from the last eruption 54 years ago.

Recordings now show that the northeast area of Agung’s peak has swollen in recent weeks “indicating there is fairly strong pressure toward the surface”, PVMBG said. It warned that if a similar to 1963’s eruption occurred, it could send rocks bigger than fist-size up to 8 km from the summit and volcanic gas to a distance of 10 km within three minutes.

Sources: The Guardian, Reuters

Read 97 times Last modified on Tuesday, 28 November 2017 16:52

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