Bali volcano: What you need to know

Over the past few weeks, Bali’s Mount Agung has rumbled back to life after more than 50 years of inactivity. The rate of increase and intensity of volcanic activity means that an eruption could be imminent.

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Mount Agung on 16 September – calm before the storm?

Even though Mount Agung hasn’t actually erupted, a state of emergency has been declared and more than 100,000 people evacuated from the areas most at risk.

But what does this mean for the tens of thousands of travellers planning to visit the island? What about those people that are already here?

I’ve been in Bali for three weeks now and have been monitoring the situation closely. Outside of the key exclusion areas, you wouldn’t even know that an eruption may be hours away and the authorities seem to have the situation very much under control.

A huge amount of information is circulating on the internet – some is trustworthy and some is not. This is why I’ve put together a short guide to help those looking for more information and to signpost people to the most accurate sources.

For the most reliable up-to-the-minute news, follow Dr Janine Krippner’s twitter account and blog. She is a volcanologist and has been doing a sterling job of compiling and translating the latest information from all of the official sources.

I’m travelling to Bali shortly. What should I do?

Only you can decide what the best option is for you. It’s important to know the facts and weigh up the risks before making a decision. The volcano could blow in the next hour. It might be next week or next month. Or it might not happen at all. Anyone claiming to know when it will erupt is wrong.

1. Check the official travel advice

Current guidance from the UK government is to follow advice of the local authorities and stay outside the exclusion zone which extends between 9 and 12 km from the crater. In the event of an eruption and volcanic ash clouds, which could cause flight disruptions, you should confirm your travel arrangements directly with your airline or travel agent before travelling to the airport.

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Location of Mount Agung and extent of the exclusion zone (Source: The Guardian)

Official government travel advice can also be found for the USA, New Zealand, Australia and Singapore.

2. Check your travel insurance

Some insurance companies will cover you for travel and medical expenses in the event of an eruption and some will not. Be sure that you know where you stand.

3. Check with your airline

Many airlines will allow you change your flights at no extra charge if you are affected. Check your airline’s Twitter page for the most up-to-date information. For example, AirAsia is offering affected passengers a free flight change or full credit towards a future flight.

4. Weigh up the risks

There are some key considerations when weighing up your options. Are you happy to miss out on a holiday because of something that might not happen while you are in Bali, or at all? However if the volcano does blow while you are there, there is a risk of ash fall which is likely to be unpleasant and also potentially dangerous. Are you comfortable with that?

An eruption will probably mean signifiant disruption to regional travel. Are your travel plans flexible and can you afford to play it by ear? Would a few extra days away from home because of disrupted flights be a major problem for you? In 2015, thousands of holidaymakers were stranded and flights were disrupted for months after Mount Raung erupted.

I’m currently travelling in Bali – what should I do?

1. Keep well away from the exclusion zone

The emergency services are busy enough without having to round up tourists hoping to get a shot of the big mountain before it blows. Know the extent of the exclusion zone and keep away. Monitor the latest information from official sources and follow the advice from the authorities.

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Map of the danger zones as of 28 September 2017 (Source: MAGMA)

2. Be prepared

Do some research, make a plan and be ready.

If Mount Agung erupts, there is likely to be a sense of panic and urgency. People will probably rush towards the nearest ports in large numbers to leave the island. Find out more on what to expect if and when Mount Agung erupts and how to prepare here.

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The ash cloud is likely to be the biggest potential source of danger and could spread for hundreds of kilometres. Know how to protect yourself and your family in the event of ash fall. Consider getting approved face masks or know where you can source them quickly if needed.

3. Find out how you would leave the island

If there is an eruption, Denpasar airport will almost certainly shut down for an unknown period of time. Depending on the wind direction, an ash cloud could also impact airports further afield.

There are seven regional airports, including Lombok to the east, and Solo and Surabaya to the west, on Java island. The authorities have made preparations to disperse travellers to these airports. Travellers would be bussed to ports, then ferries and boats used to take people to Java or Lombok.

Read more about what is likely to happen to travellers wanting to leave the island here.

I want to help – what can I do?

With the number of people displaced from their homes now exceeding 100,000, there are plenty of options for helping those in need. The Bali Expat website has a list of different agencies and what food and supplies are currently required.

A relief effort is also being coordinated by Kopernik. You can find out how to help on this Facebook page.

BARC are helping to take care of any animals left behind.

Official sources of information

BNPB – Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (National Board for Disaster Management)

MAGMA Indonesia

Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral, Badan Geologi (Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Geological Agency)

The emergency radio station given by BNPB is 146.800 MHz

This information is correct as of 28 September 2017. Are you aware of any key information that I might have missed? Let me know in the comments below.

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