Bali volcano: 35,000 evacuated from near Mount Agung

A child eats noodles at a temporary evacuation center for people living near Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level, inside a sports arena in Klungkung, on the resort island of Bali, Indonesia, 24 September 2017.Image copyright

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Thousands of Bali residents have been evacuated to town halls and schools

Nearly 35,000 people have been evacuated from their homes near an active volcano in Bali, as authorities warn it could erupt imminently.

The area around Mount Agung has seen hundreds of tremors and signs of magma rising to the surface in recent days.

Authorities have imposed a 12km (7.5 miles) exclusion zone around the mountain and issued their highest level alert on Friday.

The island’s main tourist areas and flights remain unaffected for now.

Indonesia’s national volcanology centre said in a statement (in Indonesian) on Sunday night that the mountain’s “seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt”.

By Friday about 10,000 people had been evacuated, with more told to leave as authorities expanded the exclusion zone.

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The mountain has shown signs of increased volcanic activity in recent weeks

Officials began noticing heightened volcanic activity in August and have steadily stepped up the evacuations of the rural villages surrounding the mountain.

Thousands of Balinese are now living in shelters in town halls and schools, with authorities trucking in tonnes of aid supplies. Some communities have also set up livestock shelters for the cows which they had to leave behind, reported The Jakarta Post.

Many villagers are still visiting their homes in the daytime and life is continuing normally, according to Reuters news agency.

Mount Agung, which is more than 3,000m above sea level, lies in the eastern part of Bali, which is a popular tourist destination.

The volcano is about 70km from the main tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak, which remain unaffected for now. Flights in and out of Bali are operating normally.

Bali’s local tourism board said on Sunday that there had been no volcanic ash detected, but advised visitors to “start preparing sufficient stock of face masks” in case of an eruption.

Several countries including Britain, Australia and Singapore have issued travel advisories for their citizens, warning of possible flight disruptions and evacuations.

More than 1,000 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963. With Bali’s rapid development in the decades since, authorities fear a bigger death toll may result should the volcano erupt again.

It is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia – an archipelago prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”.

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