22 Nov 2017

Thousands flee as Bali volcano erupts

11:37 am on 22 November 2017

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali has erupted for the first time in more than 50 years, the country's national disaster agency says.

Mount Agung volcano spews steam and smoke into the air in October.

Mount Agung volcano spews steam and smoke into the air in October. Photo: AFP

More than 140,000 people had fled their homes in recent months before Mount Agung began belching smoke 700m above its summit on Tuesday.

However, so far there have been no changes to flights in the region despite the eruption.

Villagers near the mount were first told to leave in August when it started rumbling but were later allowed to return home. Since then the mount has been rumbling intermittently.

Many of those who returned home have now been ordered to leave and stay overnight in village halls and temples a safe distance from the volcano.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

According to official estimates, the holiday island of Bali has lost at least $US110m in tourism and productivity while locals were moved to shelters.

However, the island's airport remains open with no changes to flights, and tourist areas are safe, according to Indonesia's disaster agency.

A spokesperson for the national disaster agency said Mount Agung was undergoing phreatic eruptions, which happen when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma.

Phreatic eruptions also took place during the catastrophic eruption of Krakatoa in Indonesia in 1883, which killed 40,000 people.

Nearly 1600 people died when Mount Agung last erupted in 1963.


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