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Relief as Indonesian volcano goes off the boil

October 31, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Indonesian authorities have lowered the alert status of Bali’s Mount Agung volcano following a significant decrease in activity – but not before Bali’s tourism operators saw their business plunge by about 20%.

More than 140,000 people fled the region around the mountain after the volcano began rumbling and shaking, leading to an alert at the highest level being issued on 22 September 2017, when volcano experts said an eruption appeared imminent.

Two weeks ago, Herman Hoven, general manager of Khiri Travel Indonesia reported that bookings in the Bali tourism sector had dropped by at least 20% across the board since Mt Agung began showing increased signs of activity in the third week of September.

“Irresponsible reporting and comments on social media have created an unwarranted fear factor while the situation on the ground in Bali remains calm and tourism operators remain fully open for business,” Hoven said.

He added that an eruption and volcanic ash cloud remained “a distant and hypothetical scenario”.

His words appear to have been borne out. While the volcano was at one stage being rattled daily by hundreds of tremors, no eruption has happened.

An Indonesian government vulcanologist said the decision to downgrade Agung’s status was made after scientific indicators showed its activities were decreasing drastically. Tremors from the volcano have fallen over the past week from about 1000 a day to fewer than 400.

Monitoring the volcano seems to have been quite a pleasant process, when conducted from the right distance.

As Hoven pointed out, “the vast majority of Bali’s tourism activities take place between 30 and 60 kilometres from Mt Agung, at a safe distance.”

The fear, however, was that an ash cloud from the volcano could disrupt flights, leaving passengers stranded.

The threat of that has abated – although with Indonesia having more volcanoes than any other country on earth, you can’t be too complacent.

Written by Peter Needham

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