Bali’s Mount Agung remains on the highest alert level for an eruption, but Indonesian volcanologists want the public to understand that the level IV, max alert only refers to the exclusion zone, set as a radius from the volcano crater, with a max distance of 10 kilometers at some points.
Head of the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG), Kasbani, said he wanted to make this clear to the public that the alert status should not be interpreted as Bali as a whole being on the “danger” watch.
Mount Agung, located in East Bali’s Karangasem Regency, which has entered the eruption phase, is far from the island’s most frequented tourists spots in the south; Agung is about 75 kilometers from Kuta.
But ever since the volcano rumbled back to life, Bali, which relies on tourism as its biggest industry, has taken a serious hit.
The volcano has been acting up since September 2017 and was on the highest alert status for an eruption from Sept. 22 to Oct. 29, then downgraded until Nov. 27, when it got bumped back up to level IV, where it’s been ever since.
While Agung’s activity has meant real danger for the tens of thousands of Balinese villagers living in the volcano’s exclusion zone, who have had to flee their homes and camp out at makeshift evacuation centers, the rest of Bali remains safe from Agung’s wrath, insists Kasbani.
“The alert status is not for the island of Bali. Just a radius of eight kilometers from the crater of Mount Agung, and 10 kilometers in some spots,” Kasbani told Detik Travel on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the rest of the island is just level II, in accordance with the Ministry of Home Affairs, which announced the island’s designation on Dec. 15.
“It should be noted that the 10 kilometer sections are alerts for lahar (cold lava flows) so the awas (danger) status is not for all of Bali, only Mount Agung. Outside of there, it’s safe for people to go on with their regular activities,” Kasbani explained.
“Please, come to Kuta, Nusa Dua, Ubud, Jatiluwih. These are all safe and so are even more places,” he said.
It’s worth pointing out that flights have dropped so significantly to Bali because while many travelers may understand that the island is safe to enjoy outside of the volcano’s path, it’s just a matter of the volcano possibly spewing ash and causing another airport shutdown and disrupting flights.
Ngurah Rai International Airport was shut down for two and a half days from Nov. 27 when ash clouds blocked the flight path, but the island’s airport was allowed to reopen on the afternoon of the 29th, once winds shifted.
The country’s official weather agency predicts winds will be carrying ash away from the airport for the remainder of 2017, but many travelers are looking at alternative trips instead of Bali due to the challenge of finding travel insurance now that Mount Agung is considered a “known event” and many providers won’t cover Bali trips booked after the volcano started erupting.