Warnings that a volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali will erupt have prompted an exodus of more than 75,000 people that is likely to continue to swell, according to the country’s disaster agency.
Authorities have ordered the evacuation of villagers living within a high danger zone that in places extends 12 kilometres from Mount Agung’s crater.
But people further away are also leaving, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson, said on Tuesday.
The region is being shaken daily by hundreds of tremors from the mountain, which volcanologists say indicates a high chance of an eruption.
Scientists say when Agung does blow, the temperature of the Earth will temporarily fall because the ash cloud will blot out the Sun.
Agung last erupted in 1963, killing about 1,100 people.
Evacuees are taking shelter at more than 370 sites across the island that include temporary camps, sports centres, village halls and the houses of friends and relatives.
In 1963, Agung hurled ash as high as 20km and remained active about a year. Lava travelled 7.5km and ash reached Jakarta, about 1,000 kilometres away.
President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo visited a sports centre serving as temporary accommodation in a district south of the volcano on Tuesday.
In a televised news conference, he said “the highest priority is the safety of our people” and urged those around Mount Agung to follow the instructions of authorities.
In the Central Java town of Yogyakarta, about 500 people gathered at a Hindu temple to pray for the safety of people near the volcano.
They presented traditional offerings and collected money for the evacuees.
Bali is the only predominantly Hindu province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
The mountain, 72 kilometres to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
Officials have said there is no immediate danger to tourists but ash fall from an eruption would likely force the closure of Bali’s international airport.
The island, famous for its beaches, surfing and elegant Hindu culture, had nearly five million visitors last year.
Shops and businesses in Amed, a string of traditional fishing villages with a panoramic view of Agung some 40 kilometres away, were open on Tuesday and tourists were enjoying the scenery.
Indonesia, an archipelago of thousands of islands, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location on the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.