Indonesia closed its main airport on the island of Bali late Monday and instructed the more than 100,000 local residents to evacuate the area immediately. Mount Agung volcano eruption imminent, experts say.
The CCTV livestream above shows Mount Agung volcano in Karangasem intermittently spitting out volcanic ash and fire. Fleeing citizens were told that the first major eruption in 54 years could be “imminent”.
So-called “phreatic explosions” take place when cool water comes into contact with molten lava underground, which causes an intense buildup of steam. According to the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), the smoke produced is sometimes accompanied by explosions and the sound can be heard “up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak” of the volcano.
The volcano already erupted at around 5:30pm Indonesian local time leaving a red glow and a thick cloud of ash around its crater. The authorities in Bali have been monitoring the area since it first began rumbling in late September.
“The potential for a larger eruption is imminent,” BNPB spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho announced after the alert level was raised from 3 to its maximum of 4. The aviation warning level for aircraft in the area was also raised to red alert. Nighttime CCTV footage of the volcano showed a bright white glow of magma at the peak of Mount Agung, as citizens were evacuated from the 5 to 6 mile danger zone.
Mr. Nugroho told citizens to stay at least 7 miles away from the radius surrounding the volcano. He also reported that, although there have so far been no casualties associated with the volcanic activity and 40,000 people had already fled the area, tens of thousands are potentially still in danger.
Mount Agung towers over the east of Bali at just under 10,000 feet high. The volcano last erupted in 1963, immediately killing over 1,000 people and destroying several villages with hot ash and lava. The eastern part of the island is substantially underdeveloped compared to the southern areas which are popular with tourists. Many people have refused to leave their homes in spite of the imminent threat.
Indonesia’s tourist industry has taken a huge hit since Mount Agung began rumbling last month and the alert level was raised to maximum across the island. In spite of government reassurances that the main tourist areas of Bali were still safe and that the seismic activity had calmed, many tourists have stayed away since September.
Bali’s main airport in the island’s capital Denpasar was closed for 24 hours yesterday, disrupting 445 flights and almost 60,000 passengers, according to Reuters. High levels of volcanic ash meant that planes in the area had to be grounded, and airlines are expected to make further cancellations this week.
Although 10 additional airports in nearby provinces have arranged to receive redirected inbound flights, television news reports from Indonesia showed hundreds of stranded tourists in Denpasar’s airport terminals — many of them sleeping on suitcases and clothing.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.