The Indonesian government issued its highest alert on Monday for Mount Agung, a volcano on Bali that began to erupt a few days ago, forcing mass evacuations, closing the island’s main airport and stranding tourists.
Nearly 30,000 local residents have already left their homes for makeshift shelters on the island, which is Indonesia’s top tourist destination. The number of evacuees could reach 150,000 as thick smoke shoots from the spewing volcano, the Bali Disaster Management Agency reported.
Agung means “great” in Indonesian. The volcano last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,000 people.
In recent weeks, Balinese authorities have been closely monitoring volcanic tremors at Mount Agung, warning of a possible eruption after these had picked up in intensity.
Resident Nengah Narti, 45, evacuated three days ago from Besakih Village to a center about 5 km (3.1 miles) away.
This was her second evacuation. She was able to return to the village about 6 km (3.7 miles) in late October after a risk alert issued in September had been lowered.
“At that time, I went back to my home because there were no more tremors,” she told BenarNews.
She questioned the government’s response in assisting evacuees.
“The government says that we have to stay here to make it easier to get assistance, but in reality I have not received anything,” she said.
Meanwhile, Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport closed on Monday and could reopen later this week, depending on conditions.
“We will always update and offer the latest information to all the airlines’ patrons,” airport General Manager Yanus Suprayogi told BenarNews.
“We do not want to take risks if we stay open with the current conditions,” he told a press conference a day earlier.