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Over 34,000 flee rumbling Bali volcano

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Villagers rest after being evacuated during the raised alert levels for the volcano on Mount Agung. AFP

KARANGASEM (AFP) – More than 34,000 people have fled from a rumbling volcano on the resort island of Bali as the magnitude of tremors grows, prompting fears it could erupt for the first time in more than 50 years, an official said yesterday.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said the number of people fleeing their homes surrounding the volcano had tripled since Friday amid growing alarm that Mt Agung could erupt at any moment.

“The evacuation process is ongoing and we expect the number of evacuees to continue to rise,” the agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said.

The volcano, the highest point in Bali and located about 75 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been rumbling since August.

Officials announced the highest possible alert level on Friday following the increasing volcanic activity, and urged people stay at least nine kilometres away from the crater.

“I am actually very worried to leave, I left my cows and pigs at home because we were ordered to vacate our village immediately,” villager Nyoman Asih who fled with her entire family said.

The international airport in Denpasar has prepared buses and trains to divert passengers to alternative hubs in neighbouring provinces if the mountain erupts.

Bali officials said the island was still generally safe but urged tourists to stay away from tourism spots located within the danger zone.

Pura Besakih temple, one of Bali’s most prominent temples located just a few kilometres away from the mountain’s slopes, has been closed to visitors since Saturday.

The Indonesian Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said the tremors had grown more powerful yesterday.

“The mountain has not erupted until now. The earthquakes are happening less frequently but the magnitude is getting stronger,” Gede Suantika, a senior volcanologist at the agency said.

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