With the eruption of Mount Agung still imminent, here's what travelers need to know.
Mount Agung in Bali has been on the brink of eruption for a full month, and officials in the tourist hotspot continue to extend the state of emergency on the island, which is now in place until October 26.
The alert level on the volcano remains at a Level 4 — the highest possible — which was upgraded on September 22, and approximately 186,000 people have now been evacuated, according to Bali’s governor.
Between 750 and 800 earthquakes rock the island every day, and although seismicity (and the magnitude of the earthquakes) decreased slightly at the beginning of October, the activity has begun to spike again in recent days.
Officials and residents of the island are continuing to prepare for an eruption.
Is it Safe to Travel to Bali Now?
Although an eruption is very likely, many parts of the island would still be safe were the disaster to occur.
According to the Bali Tourism Hospitality Task Force, which has been established to help handle tourism-related services in the anticipation of a volcanic eruption, “local authorities have declared an area of 9 kilometers radius around the mountain as the danger zone and [have] prohibited all activities in that area.”
“Local authorities have assessed that the main tourist areas of Kuta, Legian, and Nusa Dua, at present, do not face serious danger of any immediate impact in the event of an eruption,” their statement noted.
Bali.com adds that Karangasem is the only area expected to be affected by the eruption, stating that “generally all areas” in the South, West, and Northwest of the island will likely not be impacted.
Although traveling to the island is certainly not prohibited (except for the mountain’s danger zone, of course) travelers should be prepared for what’s to come. Authorities on the island are requesting that travelers have emergency plans in place in the event of eruption, as airports may need to close due to ash fall.
Additionally, Pittsburgh volcanologist Dr. Janine Krippner urged travelers in the Australian outlet, Perth Now, to pack long-sleeved shirts and pants, a mask, and protective goggles, as the eruption poses a strong possibility of dangerous, widespread ash fall and toxic gases.
Bali Evacuation Zone Map
Three circular hazard zones surround the mountain, which is located on the far Eastern side of the island. According to Express, Zone 1 (red) is the most dangerous area, which could see large glowing rocks and heavy ash. Zone 2 (pink) is likely to see a more moderate impact, while the yellow Zone 3 is less likely to be affected, but could still see ash fall and other volcanic debris.
What Happens if Mount Agung Erupts?
The good news for Bali is that officials and residents have had weeks to prepare for the volcano’s possible eruption, meaning steps have already been taken to minimize its destruction. Bali's Governor, Made Mangku Pastika, has “guaranteed” that the volcano will not result in any deaths, Express reported. After all, the entire danger zone has already been evacuated.
“If something happened, even if an eruption happened today, I guarantee there will be no victims,” he said.
Although the loss of human life is unlikely, this volcano — like with any natural disaster — is likely to cause widespread destruction of land and property.
Bali Airports and Flight Status
Although airlines are still flying to and from the island, airport traffic is one of the areas most likely to be affected by an eruption. Airports could be forced to close due to ash in the air around the island and could disrupt major international flights. Bali officials are therefore urging travelers to keep a close eye on their flight and hotel bookings. A contingency plan making use of smaller regional airports is already in place.
What Happened After the 1963 Eruption?
The last time Mount Agung erupted was in 1963, causing one of the largest and deadliest eruptions in Indonesia’s history. An estimated 1,100 to 1,500 people were killed by the volcano, with minor eruptions and lava flow continuing for more than a year after the initial eruption. The lava flow, however, began just a few days after the first signs of major activity within the mountain, leaving the island with much less time to prepare and evacuate than today.