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Bali's Mount Agung spewed ash thousands of feet in the air, prompting mass evacuations and flight cancellations. Photo: Petra Simkova/Reuters

Bali’s Mount Agung spewed ash thousands of feet in the air, prompting mass evacuations and flight cancellations. Photo: Petra Simkova/Reuters


The Inertia

Remember back in September when Bali’s Mount Agung was on the verge of eruption? And then it didn’t do anything except rumble and grumble and blow smoke? And then everyone forgot about it because we didn’t see Mother Nature’s violent insides pouring forth onto fleeing citizens? Well, it erupted while the world was looking the other way. More than once.

According to NPR, “Clouds of ash filled the air around Bali’s Mount Agung after the volcano erupted on Saturday and multiple times on Sunday.” Officials canceled several flights at Ngurah Rai, the airport near Denpasar that you’ve flown into with Bingtangs and perfect waves on your mind, and from Lombok International Airport on Pulau Lombok. They also moved nearly 25,000 people in a mass evacuation that sort of already happened.

Back at the end of September, Balinese authorities moved 144,000 from an exclusion zone that was eight miles around the base of the volcano. Then they asked half of them to go back, despite Agung’s rumbling protests.  Bali’s governor announced at the time that people leaving villages that are “safe” from the volcano–villages outside that exclusion zone–are taking supplies and shelter away from evacuees who actually need it.

“Those who live outside the danger zone, we urge them to go back home and carry on with their daily lives,” said Putu Widiada, head of the disaster mitigation agency in Klungkung district south of the volcano where some 22,000 people have fled. “We are trying to identify those who lived outside the danger zone.”

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The first real eruption occurred at just after 5 p.m. local time on Saturday, according to Bali’s Regional Disaster Management Agency. Following several more, a “medium-pressure eruption” sent ash nearly 7,000 feet in the air. By Sunday, said Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, the ash was floating around at nearly 25,000 feet.

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation jacked up its aviation notice from the previous orange to red. The government, though, doesn’t want the volcano to disrupt tourism. “Bali is safe, wrote Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Authority on Twitter. “Just keep away from disaster-prone areas.”

Volcanoes can erupt in a few different ways. Right now, Mount Agung is in something called a phreatomagmatic eruption, which occurs when the gas in the magma gets trapped. It builds until eventually the pressure is too great and it is released. “The activity of Mount Agung has entered the magmatic eruption phase,” volcanologist Gede Suantika told Reuters. “It is still spewing ash at the moment, but we need to monitor and be cautious over the possibility of a strong, explosive eruption.”

Suantika expects the volcano to continue doing what it’s doing at the moment and doesn’t expect to see a major eruption.



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