JAKARTA (Reuters) – Mount Agung on the Indonesian island of Bali spewed a plume of black smoke and ash in a small eruption, prompting Singapore to advise its citizens to be ready to evacuate the holiday island at short notice amid fears of a larger eruption.
Authorities have yet to change Agung’s alert status, which remains one level below the highest level, and there have been no reports of flight cancellations.
“Singaporeans should postpone non-essential travel to affected areas of the island at this time,” Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a travel advisory on Wednesday.
“You should also be prepared to evacuate at short notice.”
The eruption could produce a cloud of ash that would “significantly disrupt air travel,” the report said.
Mount Agung towers over 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) above sea level in eastern Bali. The last outbreak, in 1963, killed more than 1,000 people and razed several villages.
Indonesia has nearly 130 volcanoes, more than any other country. Many of these show high levels of activity but can take months to erupt.
A “submersible eruption” occurred on Tuesday night, sending black smoke as high as 700 meters (2,300 feet), followed by ash, rubble and sand, a spokesman for Indonesia’s national disaster mitigation agency said by text message.
“This type of eruption, known as a submergence, is the result of violent fragmentation of pre-existing rock when water heated by rising magma beneath Agung quickly turns to steam,” said a blog post on the Discovermagazine.com website.
Disaster agencies advise against any activity within 6-7.5 kilometers (3.7-4.6 miles) of the crater. There are said to be 29,245 people in 278 evacuation camps.
At one point, more than 130,000 people left their homes after authorities raised Agung’s maximum alert level to level 4 in September. On October 29, the alert level was lowered to level three.
Australia kept its travel advice unchanged, telling citizens to “monitor local media reports, follow local government instructions and stay outside existing restricted areas”.
Famous for its surfing, beaches and temples, Bali attracted nearly five million tourists last year, but business has plummeted in the area around the volcano since the Mount Agung earthquake began to intensify in September.
Tourism is the cornerstone of Bali’s economy and is Indonesia’s fourth-biggest source of foreign exchange earnings, behind natural resources such as coal and palm oil.
Reporting by Jessica Damiana; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Bursell