More than 134,000 people have fled the area surrounding the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali, fearing an imminent eruption.
The Indonesian disaster agency’s 134,200 figure is more than double the population of the exclusion zone 7.5 miles around the mountain, but people from further afield are leaving too, the Associated Press reported.
The volcano, located in the northeast of the island, has been rumbling since August but the tremors escalated dramatically in recent days. It last erupted in 1963, spewing ash, gas, rock and miles of lava, killing more than 1,100 people and destroying numerous homes. It remained active for more than a year.
Many of the evacuees, who set off after the red alert was given on Friday, are sheltering in buildings including temporary camps and sports centers. Sirens will be sounded if an eruption occurs.
“I was very worried about the situation” said Nyoman Suarta, who lives in a village just outside the danger zone. “So I decided to get out to save myself with my stuff and my pet,” he said, carrying a bird in a cage.
The island attracts millions of tourists every year, many of them Australian. Bali authorities urged holidaymakers to continue visiting the island.
“Bali tourism is safe. Do not spread the misleading news that Bali is not safe because Mount Agung is on the highest alert status. Please, come and visit Bali,” said A.A. Gede Yuniartha Putra, the island's tourism chief, according to the Australian website news.com.au.
The website said Indonesian authorities were on standby to divert flights in the event of an eruption.
Meanwhile, thousands of cows have been left behind by villagers fleeing the volcano. Indonesia’s disaster agency said about 30,000 of the animals were in the danger zone, while fleeing villagers sold or took with them 10,000.
Local animal officials were trying to evacuate the cattle — which need 1,200 tons of dry feed a month in addition to grazing — but so far removed only about 1,400 because of a limited number of trucks, the AP reported
There are more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia, made up of thousands of islands on the “Ring of Fire” of fault lines and volcanos in the Pacific.
Mount Sinabung on Sumatra, an Indonesian island 1,400 miles from Bali, has been erupting periodically since 2010, belching a miles-high cloud of ash that has forced over 30,000 people to evacuate.
Elsewhere in the Pacific, all 11,000 residents of the island of Ambae in Vanuatu were evacuated when the Manaro Voui volcano erupted over the weekend.
VIDEO: Driving at full tilt away from Sinabung. That was way more intense than I intended. pic.twitter.com/gIFBWcx2X7— Aisyah Llewellyn (@BRITgrlINDOfood) September 27, 2017