Rumbling Bali volcano 'at critical stage,' disaster official says

Rumbling Bali volcano 'at critical stage,' disaster official says

A total of 75,000 people are forced to flee their homes as Mount Agung volcano in the Indonesian holiday island of Bali could erupt at any moment, a government official said Tuesday.

The Indonesian national disaster agency (BNPB) said there had been more than 560 deep volcanic earthquakes recorded on Monday alone.

The area has been palced under the highest volcano alert - but experts have said it is impossible to say exactly when it will blow.

Evacuees are now living in temporary shelters: sports centres, village halls or even with relatives or friends.

The volcano last erupted in 1963 when it killed 1,100 people.

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Although officials have stressed that there is no immediate danger to tourists, a significant eruption would force Bali's worldwide airport to close, stranding thousands.

An increasing frequency of tremors from the volcano indicates magma is continuing to move toward the surface and an eruption is possible, said National Disaster Mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

He added: "There is a definite possibility that it will erupt, however we don't know when it will happen".

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo is scheduled to deliver humanitarian aid to Mount Agung evacuees during his visit to Bali on Tuesday.

Trekking tours on the mountain have been cancelled by operators but officials have otherwise been at pains to assure tourists the island is safe.

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More than 75,000 people had left the immediate area by September 26.

"We have already sold our cattle, because we thought it was better than leaving them there for nothing", he said.

The central government has set aside a relief fund of almost $150 million in case of an eruption.

Over the past 5,000 years, Agung has erupted once a century on average and about a quarter of its eruptions have been a similar or stronger strength than 1963.

The airport in Bali's capital Denpasar, through which millions of foreign tourists pass every year, has not been affected, but several countries including Australia and Singapore have issued a travel advisory. It was reported that planes that fly in Bali are fueling extra fuel against possibility of returning.

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The mountain, 72 kilometres (45 miles) to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.

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