Indonesia closed airport on tourist island of Bali as highest alert issued

Mount Agung volcano erupts as seen from Culik Village, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia. Antara Foto/Nyoman Budhiana/ via REUTERS
Vastavam web:  Indonesia closed the airport on the tourist island of Bali on Monday and ordered 100,000 residents living near a grumbling volcano spewing columns of ash to evacuate immediately, warning that the first major eruption in 54 years could be “imminent”.“Plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to 12 km (7 miles) from the peak,” the Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said in a statement after raising the alert from three to its highest level of four.
Sutopo, a BNPB spokesman, said there had been no casualties so far and 40,000 people had left the area, but tens of thousands still needed to move.Video footage shared by the agency showed volcanic mud flows (lahar) on the mountainside. Lahar carrying mud and large boulders can destroy houses, bridges and roads in its path.
But tourism has slumped in parts of Bali since September when Agung’s volcanic tremors began to increase and the alert level was raised to maximum before being lowered in October when seismic activity calmed.Agung rises majestically over eastern Bali to a height of just over 3,000 metres (9,800 feet). Northeastern Bali is relatively undeveloped compared to the more heavily populated southern tourist hub of Kuta-Seminyak-Nusa Dua.
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.Recordings now show the northeast area of Agung’s peak has swollen in recent weeks “indicating there is fairly strong pressure toward the surface”, PVMBG said.It warned that if a similar eruption occurred, it could send rocks bigger than fist-size up to 8 km (5 miles) from the summit and volcanic gas to a distance of 10 km (6 miles) within three minutes.