Mount Agung in Bali, Indonesia, has begun erupting, leading to mass evacuations, stranded travellers and health concerns.
On Saturday, Mount Agung, which means “The Great Mountain”, started spewing clouds of white and grey volcanic ash up to 4000 metres into the air, as lava was seen welling up in the crater.
Indonesian authorities raised the volcano warning to the highest level on Monday, fearing an imminent major eruption for the first time since 1964.
Over 100 000 people have been instructed to evacuate the area, and Bali’s main airport has been closed.
After 440 flights were cancelled for a second day, approximately 60 000 travellers have been stranded on the island, which is a popular tourist destination.
The airport has been closed because volcanic ash can damage aeroplane engines and cause them to fail. Ash can also clog fuel and cooling systems, and limit pilot visibility.
Besides ash, streams of rock mixed with water known as “lahars” have also been flowing down from the mountain. Officials have warned people to stay away from the lahars.
According to a spokesperson for Indonesia’s national disaster agency, only 29 000 people have moved to shelters thus far. Many residents have refused to evacuate, unwilling to leave their jobs, livestock and fields.
Those still in the area have been given face masks to help protect them from the continuous ash fall, which can severely damage the lungs.
Image: Mount Agung erupting [online image] (2017) sourced on 28 November 2017 https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Mount_Agung%2C_November_2017_eruption_-_27_Nov_2017_02.jpg/220px-Mount_Agung%2C_November_2017_eruption_-_27_Nov_2017_02.jpg