75000 now evacuated from Bali volcano threatening to erupt

The sun sets behind Mount Agung yesterday

Thousands of people on the Indonesian island of Bali have been evacuated from their homes amid fears that Mount Agung could erupt for the first time in over 50 years.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the agency's spokesman, said evacuees are spread across more than 370 locations on the island, including temporary camps, sports centres, village halls and the houses of friends and relatives.

Tarsisia Ni Nyoman Juliarti told ucanews.com that she and her family fled their home in Padangkerta, in Karangasem district on September 23 "because we fear an eruption". Authorities have imposed a 12 km exclusion zone around the mountain and had issued their highest level alert on September 22.

When Mount Agung last erupted in 1963, more than 1,100 people were killed and several settlements were destroyed.

The estimated number of people who should evacuate is 62,000, but officials said the actual number is higher because of confusion about the danger zone on the map - leaving many unable to distinguish whether they live in the zone, and so they've fled as a precaution.

The Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said there has been an increase in volcanic tremors, with a total of 564 recorded Monday.

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

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"The President's assistance came in various forms of goods worth more than IDR7, 1 billion", said Director General of Social Protection and Security Harry Hikmat from Jakarta, Tuesday.

An increasing frequency of tremors from the volcano indicates magma is continuing to move towards the surface.

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

"Mount Agung is one of many similar volcanoes in Indonesia and the ring of fire surrounding the Pacific and eastern Indian oceans", he wrote.

Seismic activity from the volcano has escalated dramatically in the past two weeks but officials say there is no reason for tourists to panic and the island famous for its surfing, beaches and elegant Hindu culture is still safe to visit.

Virgin Australia and Jetstar, both of which fly to Bali from Australia, said they would carry extra fuel in case they needed to reverse course quickly.

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