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Sunday 10 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Mount Agung

Bali volcano alert: Government advising Irish citizens as thousands flee homes

Mount Agung has been spewing ash for a number of days.

Indonesia Bali Volcano Firdia Lisnawati via PA Images A view of the Mount Agung volcano erupting in Karangasem, Bali. Firdia Lisnawati via PA Images

Updated at 4.50pm

A RUMBLING VOLCANO on the resort island of Bali could erupt at any moment, authorities warned as they raised alert levels to maximum, accelerated a mass evacuation and closed the main airport, leaving tourists stranded.

Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that it’s providing consular assistance to “a number of Irish citizens” on the Indonesian island.

“As a result of the volcanic ash cloud, both Bali and Lombok international airports are temporarily closed,” the Department said in an updated statement on its website.

Please heed the advice and guidance of local authorities, and maintain contact with your airlines and tour operators before travelling.

Massive columns of thick grey smoke that have been belching from Mount Agung since last week have now begun shooting more than three kilometres into the sky, forcing flights to be grounded.

INDONESIA-BALI-MOUNT AGUNG-ERUPTION Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Some 40,000 frightened people have fled their homes around the volcano but as many as 100,000 will likely be forced to leave, disaster agency officials said after raising the alert to its highest level.

The exclusion zone around Agung, which is 75 kilometres from the beachside tourist hub of Kuta, has also been widened to 10 kilometres.

“Continuous ash puffs are sometimes accompanied by explosive eruptions and a weak booming sound,” the National Board for Disaster Management said.

The rays of fire are increasingly observed at night. This indicates the potential for a larger eruption is imminent.

INDONESIA-BALI-MOUNT AGUNG ERUPTION Xinhua News Agency via PA Images Xinhua News Agency via PA Images

Agung rumbled back to life in September, forcing 140,000 to leave. Its activity decreased in late October and many returned to their homes.

However, on Saturday, the mountain sent smoke up into the air for the second time in a week in what volcanologists call a phreatic eruption, caused by the heating and expansion of groundwater.

Then on Monday so-called cold lava flows appeared, similar to mud flows and often a prelude to the blazing orange lava seen in many volcanic eruptions.

“I’m very concerned because I left my house behind and I’m also worried about family,” said 36-year-old farmer Putu Suyasa, who fled with some of his relatives from a village eight kilometres away from the volcano.

“The mountain is spewing thicker smoke than before.”

‘We have to cooperate’

Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, killing about 1,600 people in one of the deadliest eruptions in a country that has nearly 130 active volcanoes.

The airport in Bali’s capital Denpasar, a top holiday destination that attracts millions of foreign tourists every year, has been closed, a move expected to affect tens of thousands of passengers.

“I have to make sure that the runway has no ash,” said Bali airport’s general manager Yanus Suorayogi.

While there was dismay from some tourists who were unable to return to their homes and jobs, others took events in their stride.

“What can I say? We have to cooperate because this is a natural disaster,” said Indian visitor Krisna Mustafa.

Many were told that even in the best scenario it would be several days before they could leave.

“My 7am flight this morning got cancelled, just when we were about to board,” said 23-year-old Indonesian tourist Merry Handayani Tumanggor.

“Now we have to stay in Bali again, the earliest we can go is on Friday, they say.”

© – AFP, 2017, with reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha. First published at 7.28am. 

Read: Opinion: We have an unacceptably high level of school suspensions and expulsions >

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