Will It, Won’t It…Bali Burnt Either Way

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BALI’s economy has taken a hammering over the past month, as tourists seek to avoid the threat of a Mount Agung eruption.

Official estimates suggest uncertainty around the Bali volcano has cost the island a staggering Rp2 trillion since the alert was first raised on September 22.

Unsurprisingly, Bali’s tourism sector has been particularly damaged by the volcano, suffering losses of about Rp264 billion alone.

However, it is the island’s banking industry that is expected to bear the brunt of the losses, according to Purwo Nugroho of Bali’s Disaster Mitigation Agency.

He explained that Balinese locals have lost jobs and income and will no longer be able to repay their debts, costing banks in the region of Rp1.05 trillion (£61 million).

Bali officials downgraded Mount Agung’s alert status to level three this week (October 29), after a sustained drop in seismic activity beneath the volcano – a move that will be welcomed by hotel owners on the island.

Despite the reduction, Bali’s Volcanology Centre (PVMBG) has warned that the threat of an eruption has not yet passed.

“The volcanic activities have not completely calmed down and there is still a potential for an eruption,” a spokesperson said.

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An exclusion zone around the volcano has been reduced from 12km to 7.5km, allowing thousands of refugees to return home.

There are now only six villages in the danger zone – down from the previous 28.

The decision prompted the UK Government to update its travel advice for Britons planning on visiting Bali.A new statement reads:

“On 29 October 2017, the National Disaster Management Authority for Indonesia reduced the volcanic alert level for the Mount Agung volcano in north east Bali from the highest level, level 4 to level 3 due to a reduction in seismic activity. 

“If the current level of seismic unrest continues there is still potential for an eruption.

“You should monitor local media reports, follow the advice of the local authorities and stay outside the exclusion zone which extends between 6 and 7.5 kms from the crater. 

“If there is an eruption, volcanic ash clouds could result in airport closures and flight disruption in the region. 

About 180,000 people abandoned their homes to escape the threat of Mount Agung after the volcano alert was raised to level four, according to Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika.

Of this number, up to 150,000 travelled to one of the makeshift evacuation centres dotted around the island, with the remaining 30,000 staying with friends or family.

Mount Agung has not erupted since 1963, when a series of explosive eruptions killed more than 1,100 people.

Mr Pastika believes forward planning this time around means there will be no deaths if Agung erupts again.

Earlier this month he said: “If something happened, even if an eruption happened today, I guarantee there will be no victims.”