Residents

60,000 yet to evacuate to safer areas

Villagers leaving for a temporary shelter yesterday. Only 40,000 people, out of 100,000 living on the slopes of Mount Agung, have left for safer areas so far.
Villagers leaving for a temporary shelter yesterday. Only 40,000 people, out of 100,000 living on the slopes of Mount Agung, have left for safer areas so far.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA • Around 100,000 people live on the slopes of Mount Agung in Bali, but only 40,000 have left their homes to reach safer areas, said Indonesia's disaster agency yesterday.

The authorities have to forcibly evacuate around 60,000 people, along with thousands of cattle, from the slopes of Mount Agung, reported local media.

"There are residents who don't want to leave their villages because they feel the situation is still safe and they are considering the lives of their cattle," said Dr Sutopo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

According to Dr Sutopo, 8,543 cattle have been evacuated to 43 safe zones, though around 5,500 remain in harm's way, reported Jakarta Globe Media.

Many villagers have refused to evacuate their homes without their cattle, a main source of livelihood in rural eastern Bali.

"Not all people in the danger zone are prepared to take refuge," he said, adding that just over 29,000 people were registered at the 200 evacuation centres. "There are still a lot of residents staying in their homes. There are personnel doing a sweep, if they need to be forcibly evacuated," Dr Sutopo told reporters.

Some villagers who fled their homes in September, when the alert was last raised to the highest level, had gone home after the alert was lowered.

On Monday, the Indonesian authorities raised the alert to the maximum level and said 100,000 residents living near the volcano had been ordered to get out of a 10km no-go zone. Mount Agung's last eruption in 1963, one of the deadliest ever seen in a country with nearly 130 active volcanoes, killed more than 1,500 people.

"I am very worried because I have experienced this before," 67-year-old evacuee Dewa Gede Subagia, who was a teenager when Agung last roared, told Agence France-Presse. "I hope this time I won't have to stay away for too long. In 1963, I left for four months."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2017, with the headline '60,000 yet to evacuate to safer areas'. Print Edition | Subscribe