Bali tourist spots deserted as Agung sends up steam clouds


More than 122,000 people on the Indonesian resort island of Bali have sought refuge in temporary shelters amid fears that the Mount Agung volcano will erupt soon.

The agency's spokesman, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said Tuesday that evacuees are spread across more than 370 locations on the island and their numbers are continuing to rise.

The 3,031-meter Mount Agung volcano in Karang Asem district is in the highest alert status with continuing hike of seismic activity.

The 3,031-metre Mount Agung last erupted for nearly a year in 1963 to 1964, killing about 1,200 people. Volcanologists have detected increased activity in the last week, but they are still unable to accurately predict the exact date and time of eruption.

"At night everything was shaking because of the quake, I evacuated on foot through dusty roads", said 70-year-old Nengah Bunter at another evacuation centre.

Authorities are also preparing ferries to help people leave Bali in case air travel is disrupted, Budi Karya said.

Almost 50,000 people have fled their homes near the Mount Agung volcano, with tremors continuing to increase in intensity and frequency.

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On February 18, 1963, local residents reported a loud explosion and smoke coming out of the mountain top. Life went on as normal when ash and gravel was falling on us, until the big lava came out and destroyed everything, ' said 82-year-old Gusti Ayu Wati.

Bali's primary visitor hubs are in the island's south, about 70km from Mount Agung.

Indonesia has almost 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country.

Both countries are evacuating amid fears of imminent volcanic eruptions and they urge several countries, including Australia and Singapore, to issue travel advisories.

ABC correspondent Adam Harvey reported early on Friday that a column of steam vapour was now visible above the volcano, indicating the mountain is heating up and may erupt at any time.

'The island is safe except for areas around Mount Agung.

There is already a comprehensive plan in place to divert flights to 10 other airports across Indonesia, should ash and volcanic gases interrupt scheduled flight plans.