Bali’s volcano could repeat the devastating 1963 blast that left 1600 people dead. The worst-case scenario would be a repeat of the 1963 eruption
By Kul Bhushan with live report and photos from Bali
Shooting white ash and black smoke 5.5 miles high into the sky and covering the surrounding area with gray cold lava, a volcano in Bali, Indonesia, threatens to erupt red hot lava anytime. A big blast could produce hot lava and rocks sliding down the slopes causing massive destruction.
Killer hot lava can flow down the Mt Agung volcano in Bali, Indonesia, but it is rumbling and erupting with white ash and black smoke for the last three days.
So far, the local people have not been affected although around 60,000 tourists have been stranded as the international airport was closed and only opened today, 30 November 2017.
Starting last weekend, the volcano has cast a doomsday pall over the island and played havoc with its economy mostly dependent on tourism. Since the international airport is closed, about 60,000 tourists are impatiently awaiting to fly out.
The Bali government has warned around 100,000 people living within twelve kms of the volcano to evacuate the affected area but this has been ignored. The landscape is awash with slippery lava covering the fields and streams. Further away, everyone is anxiously watching the awesome eruption.
“It is interesting to observe this natural phenomenon, the eruption of Mt Agung,” writes Bhagawati Morris from Bali, “Feeling the vibrations at times, gentle moving under one’s feet, sometimes hearing the rumbling of the volcano, sometimes merely sensing the sounds inside the body.”
An author, and a photographer, Bhagawati has been living in Bali for many years, as she observes, “We very much feel the plight of the Balinese who live close to the volcano who have been evacuated for the second time in as many months but as we already saw during the first time, a huge outpouring of help came from those who could help with money, material donations, and care. This is something so very touching to see – in that we are all ONE.”
“We are about 60 kilometers southwest of Mt Agung – should ashes start moving over the island, they could reach but as it is monsoon right now, they do get dampened down. We have stocked up masking tape in case we need to cover any tiny gaps in windows and doors and we have also enough face masks to use in case of ashes.”
Four million people of Bali are no doubt worried about the volcano that can erupt hot lava and destroy the surrounding homes and farms and also deplete earnings from tourists, the mainstay of the economy.
Bali’s volcano could repeat the devastating 1963 blast that left 1600 people dead. ‘The worst-case scenario would be a repeat of the 1963 eruption, perhaps a little be larger,’ David Pyle, a volcano expert at the University of Oxford in Britain, told AFP.
‘The volcano might at last be delivering the large eruption that has been feared for several weeks,’ said Prof David Rothery, of The Open University in Britain.
‘Air-fall ash is a respiratory hazard, kills crops, makes roofs collapse and can turn into devastating mudflows – known as lahars – as soon as it rains,’ said Rothery. The international airport is due to be opened today to bring relief to over 70,000 tourists stranded for three days.
Meanwhile, the Balinese wait and pray.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 1 December 2017