Bali governor declares state of emergency as impending volcano eruption expected

Mount Agung near Amed beach in Karangasem, Indonesia's resort island of Bali, on Oct 2, 2017.
Mount Agung near Amed beach in Karangasem, Indonesia's resort island of Bali, on Oct 2, 2017.AFP

JAKARTA - Bali governor I Made Mangku Pastika has declared a state of emergency as the resort island prepares for what is feared to be the impending eruption of Mount Agung volcano.

A spokesman from his office said on Monday (Oct 2) that the governor made the move to ensure that the provincial, district, and municipal governments in Bali take steps to provide assistance to people evacuated from their homes in recent weeks.

The state of emergency, which officially started on Sept 29, will end on Oct 12, but it can be extended or cut short based on the situation, said Mr Dewa Gede Mahendra Putra.

A key provision for areas in a state of emergency is that local governments can disburse funds to pay for aid that evacuees need.

Mount Agung, located about 70km east of the capital Denpasar and tourism hotspots such as Kuta beach, has been high alert since Sept 22, after an increase in seismic activity that pushed magma towards the surface of the volcano.

The number of evacuees has almost doubled to 140,000 from just under 76,000 a week ago, although some of the evacuees living outside the disaster-prone areas had returned home.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry's Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre (PVMBG) indicated that volcanic activities have fallen in recent days.

"Based on the record of the monitoring post, the number of tremors have dropped since two days ago," Mr Gede Suantika, who heads the PVMBG Volcanology Mitigation division, told Antara news.

Despite the reduced tremors, Mount Agung remains in the fourth, or highest, level of alert, he said from an observation post located in Rendang village, in Karangasem District, which is near the volcano.

Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo said 54 warning signs have been put up around the perimeter of Mount Agung to warn people to stay away.

Six mobile emergency sirens to provide early warning to people in the event of a volcanic eruption have also been standing by around Mount Agung since last week, while plans to divert aircraft away from Bali have been drawn up in the event ash clouds from the volcano affects flights.

"White smoke at 50m high with weak pressure out of the crater of Mount Agung," said Dr Sutopo. "But no signs of eruption yet."

tkchan@sph.com.sg