Thousands of residents have been evacuated from villages near an active volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali as the alert status was raised to the highest level, meaning an eruption could be imminent.
Authorities warned tourists and residents to avoid camping or hiking within a 7.5m radius of Mount Agung as seismic tremors rattled some areas and smoke rose above one of the world’s most popular tourist spots.
“Volcanic activity remains high and there are indications of magma rising to the surface and causing tremors,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB).
“There should be zero public activity within the specified radius in case there is an eruption,” Nugroho added.
The BNPB said on Monday that around 62,000 people live within the “danger zone” around the volcano, though so far only 50,000 have moved to the temporary shelters provided in neighbouring villages.
Evacuees are being housed in makeshift shelters like town halls and school gyms. Host communities were providing food and water, while the central and local governments were providing tents, blankets and other relief.
“There are some who are staying behind because the volcano hasn’t erupted yet or because of religious beliefs,” said Nugroho.
“Our staff are combing the area and urging everyone to evacuate,” he said, speaking at a news conference in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.
He added that the volcano has entered a “critical phase”, meaning magma has risen significantly closer to the surface.
Officials have urged the public to remain calm amid false reports and videos circulating online of an eruption.
Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States have issued travel advisories, though Bali’s international airport was operating normally on Monday, as were most tourist spots across the island.
Indonesia straddles the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” where several tectonic plates meet and cause 90 percent of the world’s seismic activity, according to the US Geological Survey. It has nearly 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country.
A series of eruptions at Mount Agung between 1963 and 1964 killed more than 1,000 people and injured hundreds.