Eruption fears as 57000 flee Bali volcano amid tremors

The sun sets behind Mount Agung yesterday

"So I ask all people around Mount Agung to follow instructions from the officials and minimize the impact of this volcano".

There have been tremors around the mountain since August, as the volcano on the tourist island threatens to erupt for the first time in 50 years.

The Karangasem regency, located closest to Mount Agung, is housing the largest number of evacuees at just over 21,000 people.

Frequency of deep and shallow volcanic tremors, and tectonic tremors have increased, he added.

Thousands of evacuees are living in temporary shelters, sports centres, village halls and with relatives or friends.

"Mount Agung is entering a critical phase", Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency, said in a statement issued on September 26 after the government raised the status of the 3,031-meter-high volcano on September 22 following an increase in volcanic activity. The volcano is now on the highest alert level and an exclusion zone of nine kilometers as been set from the crater.

Authorities have been watching the volcano closely, and have so far urged tens of thousands of residents to flee the area with warnings of an "imminent" eruption.

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"The President's assistance came in various forms of goods worth more than IDR7, 1 billion", said Director General of Social Protection and Security Harry Hikmat from Jakarta, Tuesday.

One of the difficulties in predicting the likelihood and timing of an eruption on Agung is that monitoring of the volcano only began after the 1963 eruption.

"Instrumentally we have never recorded such high energy or seismicity from Mount Agung", said Devy Kamil Syahbana, a seismologist from Indonesia's centre for volcanology and geological hazard mitigation.

It is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

"We can meet their daily needs for the next few days", he said.

Macquarie University volcanologist Heather Handley said the eruptions in 1843 and 1963 had a Volcanic Explosivity Index of about 5 on a scale where 8 would be the strength of an ancient super volcano eruption such as Yellowstone in the US or Toba in Indonesia. Tourists visiting Bali should remain vigilant about the situation as a possible eruption probably will affect flight availability to and from Bali's airport due to ash plumes.

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