Bali authorities set up guard posts at entrances to Mount Agung trails after Frenchman films himself at top of smoking volcano

Karl Kaddouri climbed to the top of Mount Agung on Oct. 5, 2017. Still via Facebook
Karl Kaddouri climbed to the top of Mount Agung on Oct. 5, 2017. Still via Facebook

Bali authorities are setting up guard posts securing the entrances to the trails leading up to Mount Agung after a series of people have hiked up and filmed themselves at the top—the latest, a Frenchman.

Mount Agung remains at the highest alert level for a volcanic eruption, since it was placed on level IV on Sept. 22. Authorities have insisted that Bali remains safe outside the “danger zone” but the immediate area around the volcano, in Karangasem, about 75 kilometers from the tourist hub of Kuta is on high alert. Frequent volcanic eruptions have been recorded at the volcano on a daily basis, while a fissure vent, an opening at the crater has formed, and columns of white smoke have been observed getting released from the volcano. 

An exclusion zone of nine to 12 kilometers from the volcano’s crater has been in place, resulting in the evacuation of an estimated 144,000 people. But while most people have been fleeing the volcano, fearing for their lives pending an eruption, a select few have made it a mission to summit Agung in the midst of an eruption threat.

Facebook user Karl Kaddouri posted videos and photos of himself at Mount Agung’s summit on Oct. 6, 2017, which has been shared over 2,600 times, as of Monday. Kaddouri said he recorded the video on Oct. 5 and told the camera, speaking in French, that he was some hundred meters from the point of smoke but that there was a loud noise coming from the volcano.

After being inundated with negative comments and messages, calling him out for being “insensitive” to the Balinese for hiking up the sacred mountain at such a critical time, Kaddouri made a follow-up post, claiming that he only went up to “show tourists around the world that they shouldn’t be afraid of the volcano.”

“Because many tourists are frightened and leave Tulamben and Amed and other villages. I, like you, love Bali and its people,” he wrote.

“I want you to know that I respect the volcano as much as you do.”

Before Kaddouri made the hike, there were two instances were Balinese priests hiked to the top of the “holy” volcano to check the situation out for themselves and conduct prayers at the crater.

And on Thursday last week, the governor, among other local residents gathered at Pura Besakih, Bali’s mother temple, located on the slopes of Mount Agung inside the danger zone, to conduct a ceremony coinciding with the full moon.

But no matter the motive for hikers, authorities are now saying they want to put a stop to people entering the exclusion zone and summiting the volcano.

Karangasem Police Chief Superintendent Wayan Gede Ardana says police are setting up four guard posts to monitor for people looking to climb the volcano. The guard posts will be in Desa Duda Timur, Rendang, West Tianyar, and Tulamben.

“These posts are made to screen the people wanting to climb Mount Agung because if we don’t block (the entrances), there’s the possibility that anyone could go up. The posts are formed for public safety,” Ardana said on Sunday, as quoted by Tribun Bali.

Officers will be on duty 24 hours at each post, including personnel from the military and police. In addition to setting up the posts, Ardana says 137 officers have been commissioned to patrol the disaster-prone area and to get residents out who haven’t yet evacuated.

Patrols will also stop people who have already evacuated from going back to the danger zone to check on their homes and livestock—their livelihoods—says Ardana.

“Residents have been going back and forth, the reason is because they are worried about their cattle.”

Thousands of refugees have been going back and forth for their cattle. The cattle left behind in the danger zone are in the process of being evacuated by a joint force from the Karangasem regency, Bali provincial, and central governments.

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