After five decades of quiet, Bali’s Mount Agung could be poised to explode.
More than 11,000 residents have been evacuated from villages near the active volcano, located about 50 miles northeast of Kuta, after gusts of visible smoke escaped from its top and seismic tremors shook the ground.
At around 10:30 a.m. ET on Friday, officials raised the alert status for Mount Agung from a level 3 to 4, the highest level. It is the third time in just over a week that the level has been elevated.
There has been a “tremendous increase” in seismic activity at the mountain in recent days, according to the Department of Meteorology, Climate, and Geophysics, suggesting that it could be on the verge of a flare-up.
“Volcanic activity remains high and there are indications of magma rising to the surface and causing tremors,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of the National Disaster Management Agency.
“There should be zero public activity within the specified radius in case there is an eruption,” Nugroho said.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said no residents or tourists should be within 6 miles of the crater and within 7.5 miles to its north, northeast, southeast, or south-southwest.
Some residents in villages at the foot of Mount Agung said they were reluctant to leave immediately. Others gathered to watch the volcano.
“I’m here with my husband. We need to feed the animals so that’s what we’re doing first,” villager Wayan Suarda told national television station tvOne.
Others packed their belongings into trucks for evacuation, while more stopped to watch as clouds of white smoke rose from the crater, which is around 9,840 feet above sea level.
Indonesia straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire, where several tectonic plates meet and cause 90% of the world’s seismic activity, according to the US Geological Survey.
Indonesia has nearly 130 active volcanoes, more than any other country.
A series of eruptions at Mount Agung between 1963 and 1964 killed more than 1,000 people and injured hundreds.
(Reporting by Reuters stringer in Denpasar and Kartika in Jakarta; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Paul Tait)
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