Thousands Flee Bali's Mount Agung After Volcano Threat Level Is Raised

Thursday, 28 Sep, 2017

According to the Indonesian authorities, Mount Agung in northeastern Bali can erupt at any moment.

Airlines in Australia and Singapore said they were preparing for any possible disruptions due to an eruption, but flights were running normally for now.

"Sometimes the intensity increases, sometimes it decreases, it's hard to tell when the mountain will erupt", said senior volcanologist Gede Suantika.

Among evacuees were nearly 200 prisoners from Karangasem jail including former Sydney kickboxer Michael Sacatides and Bali nine drug mule Scott Rush, Fairfax Media reports.

"Business is getting low since Mount Agung's alert status was raised to the highest level", said Ketut Purnawata, manager of Dasawana Resort, which is in the same district as the volcano, popular with tourists and hikers.

Internal volcanic earthquakes are constant. More than 57,000 people left the area of Agung volcano, who has been active and unsafe since last month. Since then, the volcano has remained pretty active, with its deep crater occasionally belching smoke and ash.

A total of 166 prisoners have been transferred from Karangasem Prison in East Bali for safety reasons, including Australian Bali Nine member Scott Rush and former Sydney man and drug smuggler Michael Sacatides.

"We are monitoring all developments, and if there is an eruption, we are ready", says Riyanto.

Michael Sacatides was among those moved from prison.

How much ash and how long it is emitted would determine the extent of how air travel will be affected downstream of the volcano. President Joko Widodo visited the evacuees in relief shelters on September 26.

However, looking at Agung's volcanic activity, Suantika said the number of tremors has decreased, but the energy level seems to be going up, as magma rises. We don't know what to expect such as earth tremors and earthquakes which we have been told to expect.

Mount Agung's latest rumbles are a spine-chilling reminder for some locals - it erupted around 50 years ago killing more than one thousand people.

Others have adopted a more philosophical view, determined not to let the warning disrupt their holiday. In case of eruption, the authorities' contingency plan includes rerouting flights to five regional airports, including those in the cities of Surabaya and Yogjakarta in Java, ABC News Australia reported.

Some airlines are offering refunds for travellers who want to stay home.