Bali’s Mount Agung has been trembling and spewing ash into the sky for months, warnings that prompted the government to steadily evacuate more than 75,000 people living around the base of the active volcano. Now the long-anticipated eruption is finally happening.
As the eruption began, Indonesia’s disaster management agency mandated an evacuation zone of 10 kilometers around the volcano and raised its alert status to 10, the highest level. More than 24,000 residents were evacuated over the past two days as the airport in Bali canceled flights as a thick cloud of ash shot 6,000 meters into the sky and drifted east and southeast of the archipelago. Lombok International Airport on Pulau Lombok, the island due east of Bali, has also closed.
According to CNN, residents were evacuated from 224 points around the island, said Ari Ahsan, spokesman for Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali.
The closures came as Indonesia upgraded its Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) to red, its highest warning, and said the ash-cloud top could reach 19,654 feet or higher.
The cancellations at Ngurah Rai, Bali's main airport, stranded roughly 7,000 domestic and international passengers, according to the airport's latest report.
Indonesia's Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation raised its aviation notice from an orange alert to a red one Sunday.
According to Reuters, ash covered roads, cars and buildings near the volcano, which is situated in the northeast of the island, while the red glow of what appeared to be magma could be seen in photographs taken by the state news agency.
“The activity of Mount Agung has entered the magmatic eruption phase. It is still spewing ash at the moment but we need to monitor and be cautious over the possibility of a strong, explosive eruption,” said Gede Suantika, an official at the volcanology and geological disaster mitigation agency.
At a height of just over 3,000 meters, Agung looms over eastern Bali. The most recent eruption, which happened in 1963, killed 1,000 people. The eruption surprised the local community, and some residents had only minutes to flee.