Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika is desperate to get the alert status of Mount Agung lowered, raising concerns about the long-term economic impacts of the prolonged alert.
Pastika insists that some evacuees should be able to return home and get back to work.
“If only this could be reduced to standby status, the radius would be six kilometers,” Pastika said in Denpasar on Tuesday, as quoted by Antara Bali.
Agung, located in Bali’s Karangasem regency, has been on level IV, the highest alert status for an eruption since Sept. 22, resulting in the evacuation of tens of thousands of local residents who had to leave the exclusion zone of 12 kilometers from the volcano’s crater. Around 139,199 evacuees have taken refuge at government-run shelters and tens of thousands have additionally fled to stay with family members and friends at other parts of the island.
The governor previously declared a state of emergency to help the government handle the high volume of evacuees. The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) says that as long as Agung is at level IV, they will keep extending the emergency status.
Pastika did not get into whether the actual science was there to back up downgrading Agung’s status to level III, but it being over a month since Agung was put on level IV, the governor did discuss the negative long-term impacts on the local economy, health, and education of the thousands of evacuees.
Not only are the people who have evacuated unable to work, but Bali Province has lost a number of its work force to handling the volcano.
And no doubt, the governor is concerned about how the alert status is affecting Bali’s biggest industry, tourism–which seems to be taking a hit.
“Because if we continue on like this, the impact will be felt very long,” Pastika said.
The governor says he does not want to endanger people by sending them back home too soon, but up-to-date monitoring equipment should allow for an eruption to be detected early, giving people enough time to quickly evacuate.
But of course it’s not up to the governor to determine the volcano’s status.
A coordination meeting is set for Oct. 26, according to Pastika. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister has requested that Volcanology and Disaster Hazard Mitigation (PVMB) conduct another review of Agung’s status level and that there should be a “second opinion” about the level.
While Agung’s seismic activity has been on the decline, PVMBG has kept the volcano on level IV based on a number of other factors that indicate an eruption could still be on the horizon.