Bali’s Mount Agung is belching clouds of ash – and its first major eruption since 1963 could be imminent. Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said, “Plumes of smoke are occasionally accompanied by explosive eruptions and the sound of weak blasts that can be heard up to seven miles from the peak.” They upped the alert from three to four, the highest level. As the last major eruption killed over 1,000 people, the island’s airport has been closed, and 100,000 residents have been told to evacuate immediately.
The potential for a larger eruption looms at Mount Agung, according to BNPB. There was a visible glow of magma at the volcano’s peak during the night, and BNPB said residents should evacuate a danger zone with a radius of five to six miles. Spokesperson Sutopo said 40,000 people have left, but tens of thousands still need to evacuate. There have been no casualties.
Bali’s airport was closed, disrupting 445 flights and 59,000 passengers, according to Reuters. The airport will be closed for 24 hours, as volcanic ash can hinder visibility, damage engines, and clog cooling or fuel systems.
— BNPB Indonesia (@BNPB_Indonesia) November 26, 2017
Mount Agung’s 1963 eruption destroyed multiple villages by spewing out ash, lava, and volcanic mud flows called lahar. Indonesia’s Vulcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) said if a similar eruption happens, the volcano could hurl rocks larger than the size of a fist five miles from the summit. Volcanic gas could be spewed out up to six miles away – and all that could happen within three minutes.
The northeast area of Agung’s peak has swollen, “indicating there is fairly strong pressure toward the surface,” according to PVMBG. The threat might not be as bad this time, however, as “energy at Mount Agung’s magma chamber is not as big” and so far the ash column is not as high as what it reached in 1963, according to Sutopo.