The Indian Consulate in Bali has opened a help desk at the city airport to provide any assistance to the Indians stuck there as Indonesia raised the alert to the highest level. Assuring all possible help, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said she was monitoring the situation closely.
“Indians in Bali – Pls do not worry. Pradeep Rawat Indian Ambassador in Jakarta @IndianEmbJkt and Sunil Babu Consul General @cgibali are on the job and I am monitoring this personally(sic),” she said on Twitter.
Massive columns of thick grey smoke that have been belching from Mount Agung since last week have now begun shooting more than three kilometres (two miles) into the sky, forcing flights to be grounded.
The airport in Bali’s capital Denpasar, a top holiday destination that attracts millions of foreign tourists every year, has been closed for the second day on Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of frightened people have fled their homes near Mount Agung, which looms over the resort island. Some 40,000 people have abandoned their homes in the danger zone but as many as many as 100,000 will likely be forced to leave, disaster agency officials have said.
The exclusion zone around Agung, which is 75 kilometres away from the beachside tourist hub of Kuta, has also been widened to 10 kilometres.
As of Tuesday some 443 flights had been cancelled, affecting more than 120,000 passengers in Bali, a top holiday destination that attracts millions of foreign tourists every year.
Mount Agung last went off in 1963, killing some 1,600 people in one of the deadliest eruptions ever seen in a country with nearly 130 active volcanoes.
Experts said however that Agung’s recent activity matches the build-up to that disaster, which ejected enough debris — about a billion tonnes — to lower global average temperatures by 0.2 – 0.3 degrees Celsius for about a year.
Indonesia is the world’s most active volcanic region. The archipelago nation with over 17,000 islands lies on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent volcanic and seismic activities.
Last year, seven people were killed after Mt Sinabung on the western island of Sumatra erupted. A 2014 eruption at Sinabung killed 16.
(With inputs from Agencies)