Highest alert status maintained for Mount Agung in Bali despite drop in tremors

Mount Agung volcano spews steam and smoke into the air as seen from Bangli on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Oct 23, 2017.
Mount Agung volcano spews steam and smoke into the air as seen from Bangli on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Oct 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - Indonesian officials have decided to maintain the highest alert status for an eruption on Mount Agung in Bali, even though the frequency of tremors dropped significantly over the past week.

A meeting of officials, including from the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG) and the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), also left intact the danger zone of between 9km and 12km around the volcano. The provincial government in Bali had proposed to lower it to 6km.

The highest alert status was declared on Sept 22 and the government has estimated that it has cost up to 2 trillion rupiah (S$200.6 million) based on, among others, cancelled tourist visits, halted mining operations and lost working hours.

"A lot of exaggerated news reports, hoaxes that were spreading have caused worries and kept tourists from coming to Bali," BNPB spokesman Dr Sutopo Purwo Nugroho told reporters.

He assured that only a few tourist spots would be affected if the volcano erupts. The most visited Kuta beach area, Nusa Dua and the provincial capital of Denpasar would not be affected.

 
 

Dr Sutopo has even suggested that the government consider the volcano's blow-up as a tourist attraction, ensuring that viewing sites remain well outside the danger zones of Mount Agung.

"We have learnt from Mount Sinabung (in North Sumatra) and a few others where the areas affected by the eruption were consistent within the anticipated danger zones. They did not move or change," Dr Sutopo said.

A meeting on oceanography and marine meteorology held by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has been moved to Geneva, Switzerland, from its initial venue in Bali, following an increase in the volcanic activity of Mount Agung, The Jakarta Post reported on Thursday (Oct 26). The organiser cited the threat of an imminent eruption as the reason for the move.

More than 134,000 people evacuated over fears for their safety remain at 390 shelters across nine districts around Mount Agung.