25 Sep 2017

Thousands flee from their homes in Bali

7:59 pm on 25 September 2017

Thousands of people have fled their homes in Bali as the active volcano Mount Agung is expected to erupt imminently.

Mount Agung from Karangasem on the Indonesian resort island of Bali earlier today.

Mount Agung from Karangasem on the Indonesian resort island of Bali earlier today. Photo: AFP

The latest government count of people in official camps is more than 42,000 but thousands of others have headed to villages with unofficial camps, set up by locals and volunteers.

The area around Mount Agung has seen hundreds of tremors and signs of magma rising to the surface in recent days.

One of the people helping is Indonesian Red Cross volunteer, Australian Michele Barratt, who was at a beach about 16km from the volcano when she spoke to Checkpoint with John Campbell.

"We're in pre-disaster mode, we have had in excess of 1000 tremors within the volcano in the last 24 hours, the magma level is rising, it's between 1 and 2km from the summit, it's usually 100km from the summit ... so it's not a matter if if this volcano is going to blow, it's when."

Villagers eat at an evacuation centre in Karangasem on the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Villagers eat at an evacuation centre in Karangasem on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Photo: AFP

Authorities have imposed a 12km exclusion zone around the mountain and issued their highest level alert on Friday.

Indonesia's national volcanology centre said in a statement (in Indonesian) on Sunday night that the mountain's "seismic energy is increasing and has the potential to erupt".

People look at Mount Agung in Karangasem on island of Bali, after warnings a volcanic eruption was imminent.

People look at Mount Agung in Karangasem on island of Bali, after warnings a volcanic eruption was imminent. Photo: AFP

Thousands of Balinese are now living in shelters in town halls and schools, with authorities trucking in tonnes of aid supplies. Some communities have also set up livestock shelters for the cows which they had to leave behind, reported The Jakarta Post.

Many villagers are still visiting their homes in the daytime and life is continuing normally, according to Reuters news agency.

Ms Barratt said the Red Cross needs a range of supplies.

Some of the evacuees in Ahmed where there is no official camp, so no government support.

Some of the evacuees in Ahmed where there is no official camp, so no government support. Photo: Supplied / Michele Barratt

"The problem is the villages that the unofficial evacuees fled to are getting depleted of stocks for themselves, let alone to support these additional people."

Ms Barratt said they needed items ranging from water and food like rice, noodles and sugar to hygiene items such as soap, shampoo and nappies and medications such as panedol and pre-natal vitamins.

"We have pregnant people here, we've got one gentleman whose 100-years-old, we need bedding, like mattresses, pillows, clothing, new underwear, people have fled with next to nothing."

One of the evacuees is this 100-year-old man.

One of the evacuees is this 100-year-old man. Photo: Supplied / Michele Barratt

Mount Agung, which is more than 3000m above sea level, lies in the eastern part of Bali, which is a popular tourist destination.

The volcano is about 70km from the main tourist areas of Kuta and Seminyak, which remain unaffected for now. Flights in and out of Bali are operating normally.

Bali's local tourism board said on Sunday that there had been no volcanic ash detected, but advised visitors to "start preparing sufficient stock of face masks" in case of an eruption.

RNZ / BBC

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