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Mount Agung eruption imminent on Bali island

Fear of imminent eruption of Mount Agung forces authorities to close island's international airport temporarily.

Mount Agung

Thousands of people living near the Mount Agung volcano on Bali have been ordered to evacuate as fears of an eruption continue to grow.

Residents living within a 10km radius have been told to leave the area as Mount Agung might erupt for the first time in 54 years.

So far, about 40,000 people have been evacuated, almost half of the planned 100,000 people that are suppoed to move because of the risk of an eruption.

Indonesian authorities are trying to convince people to voluntarily leave the area around the volcano to prevent human casualties.

The last time Mount Agung erupted, in 1963, about 1,000 people died in the eruption that eventually lasted a year.

Staying in the area could be a life-threatening event for many. According Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for disaster agency BNPB, there is a large risk of so-called lahar flows if Mount Agung erupts. 

These sometimes rapidly moving mudflows consist of volcanic debris and are capable of destroying everything in their paths. In the past, lahar flows have killed thousands of people in eruptions around the globe.

"Watch out for lahar floods [cold lava] around Mt Agung. Lahar floods have already occurred in several places on the slopes," Nugroho said on Twitter, posting a video of one of these potentially dangerous mudflows.

Besides the evacuation of about 100,000 people from the vicinity of Mount Agung, thousands of people are stranded on the popular Indonesians tourist island after authorities closed down the I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport for safety reasons.

Nugroho said on Twitter at least 445 flights carrying 59,000 travelers in total had been cancelled as a result of the closure.

The airport has been shut down for 24 hours after BNPB raised the alert level to the maximum. Bali's important transport hub is supposed to open again on Tuesday, an official statement read.

A scenario like in 2010, when the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on Iceland erupted, seems unlikely. That event caused a large amount of ash to be sent into the atmosphere, leading to the cancellation of thousands of flights.

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