Mt. Agung Volcano at Danger status: all Agencies at Top Preparedness

24 Sep 2017

As the number of tremors from Mt. Agung, on the eastern side of Bali, increased very rapidly and intensified on Friday evening, 22 September 2017, the PVMBG – Indonesia's Center for Volcanology & Geological Hazard Mitigation immediately raised the Hazard level of the volcano from level 3 (Siaga)- Alert - to Awas – level 4 (Danger), or to its highest point, indicating that an eruption looks imminent.

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The red danger zone was also extended to a 12 km radius from the crater, where all inhabitants within that area were instructed to evacuate instantly. The red zone was also closed to all activities, while Pura Besakih, the mother temple of Bali, was declared closed to tourists.

Evacuation centers were immediately set up further away from the mountain, which were provided with the necessary needs, while the Balinese themselves living in other parts of the island opened their homes to evacuees. Already some 26,000 villagers were evacuated from here.

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The Police deployed 13,000 men to help in the evacuation and to ensure protection and safety of surroundings.

Located on the most eastern side of the island of Bali, Mt. Agung volcano is the highest mountain on Bali and is held sacred by the population. Bali's mother temple, Pura Besakih, is located high up the mountain slope.

The volcano is some 72 km away from the popular Kuta beach and other popular tourist destinations, and is also away from its capital city, Denpasar, so that tourists visiting the other parts of Bali should not be affected should the mountain erupt. And indeed, until Sunday 24th September all air traffic at the Ngurah Rai International Airport and passenger traffic continued calmly as per normal as well as activities in the many resorts and towns.

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What worries tourists and airlines are the anticipated ash clouds and ash rains which would delay flights, which in turn would strand passengers both in Bali as well as at place of origin, upsetting all their plans.

Therefore, with airlines and passenger safety in mind, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of the Ministry of Transportation immediately called a meeting to take anticipatory steps to mitagate any threat to aviation safety should Mt. Agung erupt.

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Held in Jakarta at the Soekarno-Hatta International airport, the meeting was chaired by Director-General Agus Santoso. Attending were Director of AirNav, representatives from Angkasa Pura I (management of airports in west Indonesia) Garuda Indonesia and officials from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Speaking to the press, Santoso explained that to date the raising of status of Mt. Agung to level 4 has so far not impacted domestic or international flight operations to and from Bali. At the same time Director- General Santoso ensured that all related stakeholders have contingency plans in place to address the impact of an eruption on normal flight activities.

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Until Saturday morning, September 23, 2017, there was no detection of volcanic ash emitted from Mount Agung and all flight operations to and from Bali were operating normally.

Santoso called on all flight operators landing or taking off in Bali to exercise extreme caution and observe all standard operating procedures in place for operating in the proximity of an active volcano.

The Director-General of Civil Aviation further said that it would immediately issue a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) should changes be detected in the status of Mount Agung and an eruption occurred.

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In a further statement the Aviation Authorities confirmed that a number of alternative airports have been made ready to receive planes scheduled to land in Bali should these be needed, these include the international airports of: Lombok, Surabaya, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Banyuwangi and Makassar.

Meanwhile, reports that Virgin Australia announced on Saturday, September 23, 2017, that all flights heading to Bali were stopping in Darwin to take on additional fuel that would allow them to return to Australia if Mt. Agung erupted while their flight was on a final inbound sector to Bali.

Meantime, Minister for Tourism, Arief Yahya, confirmed that the Crisis Center of the Ministry has been put into immediate action to monitor the situation 24/7.

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The last time the volcano erupted was in 1963-1964 which took many casualties. With this in mind and through that bitter experience, local authorities and the National Government have immediately spring into action, working in close coordination with Bali Governor, I Gde Mangku Pastika.

And indeed, Bali Governor Pastika confirmed that "We are ready for any eventuality, God Willing".

Mt. Agung is one of Bali's many attractions that tourists love to visit to witness the inspiring beauty of the volcano and the amazing serenity of Besakih temple. The mountain is also a favorite for trekkers and mountain climbing.

However, since the mountain is located rather further east of the island in the district of Karangasem, it is anticipated that the central and western part would be less affected, that include popular resorts like Nusa Dua, Sanur and Kuta Beach, Ubud and others, as well as direct sea access to Java.

For this reason, visitors already in Bali or planning to visit Bali are urged to remain calm.

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