Indonesia’s Mt. Agung volcano on the island of Bali has erupted, prompting officials to prepare for possible mass evacuations from the popular tourist destination.
Indonesia’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency was already warning residents and tourists to stay away from an exclusion zone of roughly five miles around the crater. Their warning states the eruption could result in ash clouds that “severely disrupt air travel,” or cause disastrous environmental hazards.
While a main blast has not yet occurred, officials believe it is likely to happen soon. The last such eruption occurred in 1963 and resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 people.
Black smoke was seen rising from the mountain Wednesday, reaching more than a half mile into the air and raining ash, gravel, and sand upon those below. This type of eruption, called a “phreatic eruption,” is caused when rising magma flash heats the water inside rocks into steam, causing them to explode.
Such eruptions do not relieve the volcanic pressure inside the mountain, which is continuing to build.
Nearly 30,000 have already been evacuated to 278 camps positioned outside the danger area. In September, after officials raised the volcano to the highest alert level, more than 130,000 people evacuated. The alert level was lowered last month, but has since been taken back up to its highest level.
Nearby countries have already told their citizens to be prepared to leave. Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated:
Singaporeans currently in Bali should monitor these developments closely, avoid Mount Agung and its vicinity. You are advised to take all necessary precautions for your personal safety, monitor the local news closely and heed the instructions of the local authorities. You should also be ready to evacuate at short notice.
Tourism is Bali’s largest economic driver, and is the fourth-largest industry in Indonesia.