Nearly 100,000 people are trying to evacuate Bali as the Mount Agung volcano continues to spew ash — potentially signaling a larger eruption, officials said Monday.
The ongoing release, which started last week sending ash clouds thousands of feet into the air, marks the first eruption of the volcano in 50 years.
However, volcanologists say lava welling up in Mount Agung’s crater is a possible sign of a larger and more catastrophic eruption on the horizon.
The Indonesian government designated a 7.5-mile radius around the volcano Monday it considers the danger zone — an area that’s been expanded outward more than 4 miles over the weekend.
“We ask people in the danger zone to evacuate immediately because there’s a potential for a bigger eruption,” Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency, said.
As the warning level was raised Monday to level four — the maximum — as many as 150,000 people could ultimately be ordered out if the threat persists. No seismic activity, though, has accompanied the eruptions.
Nearly 60,000 travelers have been stranded at airports on the island as 445 flights were canceled due to the danger. The travel ban will remain until Tuesday morning.
Flying through an erupting volcano, even just an ash cloud, can be catastrophic — as fine rock granules in the clouds can choke a jetliner’s engines. An eruption in the area 1982 nearly brought down a British Airlines 747 when the ground up rock twice shut down all four of the jumbo jet’s engines.
The last big eruption of the volcano in 1963 killed more than 1,000 people.
By Sara Shayanian