Bali volcano MOMENTS from eruption as smoke and ash billows into air

Over 70,000 people have already evacuated the area as an eruption from the Mount Agung volcano seems imminent. Around 76 have erupted in historical times.

"Although alert level 4 (the maximum) has been declared since September 22, there is no guarantee that the volcano will erupt", an official from the National Disaster Mitigation Agency said.

While only 62,000 people lived in the danger zone - an 8-11km radius of the volcano - prior to evacuations, residents beyond that area have erred on the side of caution and also chosen to leave. "The number is expected to continue to increase", said Mr Nugroho.

The air force will take President Joko Widodo and first lady Iriana by helicopter to visit a shelter in Klungkung than is holding almost 20,000 evacuees.

The president, who was accompanied by First Lady Iriana Widodo and a number of ministers, also surveyed a few surrounding evacuation locations.

"It is not easy to handle a volcanic eruption because there is no certainty when it's going to happen, or if it's going to happen at all", he said. "But no one knows, we just pray".

Balinese residents, worldwide NGOs and the central government have begun organising aid.

"If the eruption occurs, the the planes supposed to land in Bali will be transferred to 10 other airports".

I Ketut Subandi, head of logistics at the village of Tana Ampo, said basic food items like rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and water were most needed.

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No-one can predict when Agung will erupt, say the villagers but the biggest warning sign will be when the animals start fleeing.

The agency said a monitoring centre had recorded more than 800 earthquakes so far on Wednesday and thin smoke was seen rising 50 metres above the crater.

Indonesia, a vast archipelagic nation with over 17,500 islands, has 129 active volcanoes.

The volcano's alert status was raised to its highest level on Friday and remains at that - level four.

One man even pointed out that the threat of a volcanic eruption did little to deter tourists from coming to the island.

After these reports made headlines, several countries including Australia, Singapore and the United States have issued travel warnings to their citizens regarding traveling to Bali.

"At present, there is no visible ash cloud and therefore flights are planned to operate as scheduled".

Some are carrying extra fuel in the event of an eruption forces them to turn around and come back.

But despite more than 80,000 people fleeing their homes within 12km of the volcano, Bali's tourism office insists the island is still safe for tourists.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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