Thousands of people have scattered to all corners of the Indonesian island of Bali, fleeing a possible eruption of volcanic Mount Agung.
The mountain, situated on the northeast section of the island, last erupted in 1963 killing about 1,100 people, and a dramatic increase seismic activity has officials worried it may be about to blow again.
“The latest analysis indicates that Mount Agung’s seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt,” the National Vulcanology Center said in a statement to Reuters. “However, no one can predict exactly when there will be an eruption.”
Most people are choosing not to risk staying in the area. More than 75,000 have relocated to areas further away from the peak, and some have crossed to the neighboring island of Lombok, The Associated Press reports.
“Our staff are combing the area and urging everyone to evacuate,” said Indonesian National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said at a news conference. “There are some who are staying behind because the volcano hasn’t erupted yet or because of religious beliefs.”
Thousands of evacuees are living in temporary shelters, sports centers, village halls and with relatives or friends, according to the AP. Some return to the danger zone, which extends up to 7.5 miles from the volcano, during the day to tend to livestock.
“There are many livestock in our village but nobody is taking care of them,” Nengah Satiya, who is one of several who volunteered to feed the pigs and chickens in his village, told the South China Morning Post. “We take turns going back to feed them.”
Others have given up on their livestock.
“We have already sold our cattle, because we thought it was better than leaving them there for nothing,” villager Wayan Merta, whose home is just 4 miles from the summit, told the AP. “My feeling is the mountain will erupt. But no one knows, we just pray.”
Meanwhile, in the evacuation centers, the government is distributing hundreds of thousands of face masks and thousands of mattresses and blankets, Nugroho told the AP.
“The biggest challenge is we can’t predict the number of evacuees,” Putu Widiada, head of the local disaster management agency in Klungkung district told Reuters. “If the number of evacuees exceeds our maximum capacity, we have asked that every public hall in the district be prepared to become evacuation camps.”
Officials have said there’s no immediate threat to tourists and a spokeswoman for the Sheraton Bali Kuta told The Australian that as of Monday, “travelers are still coming in. We haven’t had any postponement or cancellations.”
She went on to say that the hotel is advising guests to monitor information from local authorities and travel advisories, a significant eruption would force the closure of Bali’s international airport, stranding thousands.
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Fearing just such an occurrence, some tourists had already decided to leave.
“It’s obviously an awful thing,” an Australian woman who identified herself as Miriam told the AP at Bali’s international airport. “We want to get out of here just to be safe.”
When the volcano last erupted in 1963, it hurled ash as high as 12 miles, according to volcanologists, and remained active for about a year. Lava traveled 4.7 miles and ash reached Jakarta about 620 miles away.