100,000 Balinese islanders have been ordered to evacuate following the first major activity of volcanic Mount Agung in 54 years. The airport on the island of Bali has been closed over 24 hours due to the column of ash which made visibility difficult. So far 445 flights have been disrupted. Mount Agung last blew in 1963 in a blast that killed hundreds. Blasts could be heard for up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak of Agung. According to a statement from officials from the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), "The potential for a larger eruption is imminent."
So far, luckily, there have been no casualties and 40,000 people have thus far left the "danger zone" marked about Agung, but BNPB spokespersons say tens of thousands more need to. Volcanic mudflows (lahar) have already begun to creep down the mountainside. Lahar can carry mud and large boulders which, along with the flowing molten lava, are destructive to any property (or people) in its path.
Bali relies highly on a tourist economy, but tourism has been down since September when the volcanic tremors started ramping up. Seismic activity dropped for a time in October, but currently, the area is on high alert. Over half a century ago, the last time Agung blew, over 1,000 people were killed and multiple villages completely destroyed by the blast of hot ash, lava, and lahar.
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In 1963, an eruption of Agung killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages by hurling out pyroclastic material, hot ash, lava and lahar. The swollen peak of Agung noticed in the past few weeks seems to indicate a great deal of pressure being pushed towards the surface. A similar eruption to the previous might be even more destructive sending rocks larger than a balled-fist flying up several kilometers from the summit and volcanic gas being spewed even further.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">This is what I've warned about for months. "Ring of Fire" is erupting all over world. Now volcano in Bali. California's fault lines part of "Ring of Fire." The earth is giving us signs of what's to come. Guess what's next: "The Big One" in California. <a href="https://t.co/2FGhvBmm52">https://t.co/2FGhvBmm52</a></p>— Wayne Allyn Root (@WayneRoot) <a href="https://twitter.com/WayneRoot/status/935253591744331778?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 27, 2017</a></blockquote>
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The more hopeful analysis suggests the possibility that the next time Agung blows it could be less violent due to the energy in Agung's chamber not being as large as in 1963. The ash column, for instance, appears to be only about a quarter the 20 km (12 miles) height reached in 1963. Being the beginning of the holiday season, the surprise seismic and volcanic threat has set many tourists in an uncomfortable position. TV footage showed hundreds of tourists on holiday, huddled in the airport terminal. Some in sleeping bags, others playing with their phones.
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"We have been here (in Bali) for three days we are about to leave today, but just found out our flights have been canceled. We have got no information because the gates, the check-ins, have been closed indefinitely," said Carlo Oben from Los Angeles.
On the bright side, stranded tourists at member hotels who bought policies from Cover-More (Australia's largest travel insurer) are covering one night's free stay in Indonesia. In addition to visibility issues, volcanic ash can wreak havoc by clogging fuel and cooling systems putting engine integrity at risk.