Defer non-essential travel to areas affected by Mount Agung eruption in Bali: MFA

Mount Agung spewing smoke as seen from Karangasem, Bali. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans should defer non-essential travel to areas of Bali affected by the eruption of Mount Agung, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Wednesday (Nov 22).

MFA said in its travel advisory that Singaporeans currently in Bali should avoid Mount Agung and its vicinity.

"In recent months, Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency has been warning residents and tourists to stay away from an exclusion zone of 7.5km around the crater on Bali," the ministry said.

It also advised Singaporeans there to monitor local news closely and heed the instructions of the authorities there.

"You should also be ready to evacuate at short notice," it added.

Mount Agung erupted on Tuesday, three months after it first started rumbling. Thousands of residents living near the volcano had to leave again. Many of them had only recently been allowed to return to their homes after an evacuation in August.

The volcano, which is located 75km from the resort hub of Kuta, last erupted in 1963, killing nearly 1,600 people.

MFA said: "Volcanic eruptions could result in ash clouds that could severely disrupt air travel, leading to closures of affected airports. Ash fall could also affect outdoor activities."

An Indonesian official, however, told Bloomberg that the island remains largely safe, with only a radius of 6km to 7.5km around the crater considered dangerous.

"So the condition is safe. Flights are also safe," said Indonesia's Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, who described the Singapore advisory as "excessive".

Travellers from Singapore have thus far decided to proceed with their plans.

A spokesman for travel agency CTC Travel said the free and easy tours to Bali the company offers have not been affected so far.

"We have not had calls from customers who are going to Bali next week," he said. "Also, there are tours to other areas in Bali which are not near Mount Agung."

Mr Daniel Kent, 23, an admissions officer from Yale-NUS college, left for Bali on Wednesday morning. While he was "somewhat worried" about the eruption, he went ahead with his travel plans as he is visiting the towns of Ubud and Seminyak, which are beyond the exclusion zone.

"I went ahead because they're both out of the exclusion zone - I also didn't want to lose my deposits and I've already taken the leave," he said.

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