Saturday, 4 November 2017

Threat of Bali's Mt Agung Eruption Downgraded

Sunsets over Mt Agung are a highlight of many trips to Bali (Photo: Valery bocman / Shutterstock)

By Mark 'Crowley' Russell

Mt Agung, an active volcano and the highest point on the island of Bali, Indonesia, has had its threat of eruption downgraded, bringing relief to hundreds of thousands of Balinese residents and tour operators.

The volcano, located approximately 60km north-east of Sanur, had its alert status raised in September following a series of tremors in the surrounding area, peaking at over 1,000 per day according to reports. As many as 150,000 residents were evacuated from the local area, and tourist hotspots throughout the popular holiday island have suffered huge losses in the wake of international travel advisories, and fears that Denpasar airport may close as a result of an ash cloud caused by the eruption.

According to the Bali Hotel and Restaurant Associaton, at least 5,000 October bookings were cancelled as a result of the increased threat level, accounting for a 20 per cent loss of business to the island, which relies heavily on travel and tourism to support the economy.

As a result of the original warning and subsequent 12km exclusion zone, some dive spots were unavailable, including Tulamben, home of the world-famous wreck of the USAT Liberty. The exclusion zone has now been reduced to 6km around the volcano, meaning that Tulamben is open again, although some dive centres have not returned immediately and are continuing to monitor the situation.

Other locations such as Padang Bai, Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida are all well outside the exclusion zone (and 30 mins offshore from Bali, in the case of Lembongan and Penida) and have always been deemed as safe to travel. Amed is also well outside the exclusion zone, although some operators suspended trips there during the highest threat level.

Local scientists continue to monitor the volcano, and updates are provided by the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation on a regular basis. Many residents whose homes were in the original exclusion zone have been allowed to return home.

Dive centres and other tour operators in the region started the #IaminBaliNow campaign to draw attention to the fact that, despite the threat from Mt Agung, Bali is perfectly safe to travel and for most people, it's business as usual.

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