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Bali Volcano: This Is Getting Serious

 Mount Agung continues to boil….

news // Sep 28, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Get educated, be prepared, and don’t think you know more than you do. That’s the message coming out of Bali as Mt Agung threatens to erupt, bringing with it a litany of unknowns and potentially disastrous complications. 

“I don’t know how these things work to be honest. I don’t think anyone really understands how these work that well and if it’s fucken massive, I don’t think anyone’s prepared,” says Tai Graham, who’s lived on the island for over 20 years, surviving earthquakes and tsunami scares, and now looks after 250 Balinese staff as part of his roles at the Single Fin bar and restaurant in Uluwatu and The Lawn at Canggu. 

“Despite the threat Ngurah International Airport remains open and tourists continue to flock to the island with between 50 and 60 000 arriving per day – stable with the average. Many remain blissfully unaware of the potential complications of a large-scale eruption,” says Tai.  

“Your air cons get clogged (with ash fall); you got your pets and animals; all the agriculture, all our daily fruit and vegetables that come here from across the island could get stopped; all the transportation around that area – it’s a pretty strong thoroughfare especially for produce coming from other islands on the ferries – that can get stopped; petrol to get around can get stopped. The effects of it could be pretty full on,” he says.  

Dr Devy Kamil Syahban from the Department of Meteorology, Climate and Geophysics in Bali told the ABC there had been a “tremendous increase” in the mountain’s seismic activity, though it could not give an exact timeframe for any explosion. The most likely immediate impact will be the closure of Bali’s international airport and likely that of neighbouring Lombok. Beyond that, nobody really knows. 

Local Balinese, meanwhile, have banded together on a scale not seen since the 2002 Bali bombings, rounding up donations to provide support for the 75 000 people evacuated from around the volcano so far. 

“It might not seem like much of an effect to everyone sitting over here in fancy villas but to the real people of the immediate area, it’s disruptive for sure. Every village in Bali has been getting behind to help these people and it’s like goose bumps,” says Tai. 

If you wanted to slip in for some uncrowded sessions on the island now would be the time to do it with the local surfing community as involved as anyone with the relief effort. 

“Tonnes of my (local) buddies, I’m like let’s go for a surf, and they’re like, na, we’re taking a big shipment of boxes to donate to the volcano people…“(The surfing community) are as involved as the gangsters as the politicians as the business owners. Everyone is uniting as one and I think the whole world could take a leaf out of their book,” says Tai, adding, “It’s Balinese to Balinese doing it. It’s not the westerners doing it. That’s when you see how strong this island is.”

An evacuation perimeter of between 9 and 12 kilometres has been set up around Agung with the displaced spread out across the island in basketball courts, indoor futsal arenas, gamelan auditoriums and the sacred Banjar meeting places. One of the biggest camps is in Klungkung, the regency that contains Keramas, just up the road from the Komune surf resort. 

“Yesterday we send food, rice, clothes, tents, and we are looking for donations from guests here, which they appreciate,” a Balinese worker at the resort whose cousin had been displaced told Stab, adding that the resort was still at 95% capacity with no sign of a downturn in bookings.  

The last time Agung blew its top was in 1963 with lava flows, ash and debris tearing down the north and south sides of the volcano killing 1000 and providing major disruptions to the island for up to a year.  Since then advancements in technology have allowed authorities to predict with much greater accuracy the timeframe of an eruption but size and scale of the blast remains unknown. Tai, whose fiancé is due to give birth this December, is feeling the uncertainty more than most. 

“Think about that: this thing is spitting out and goes for a year. I’m thinking, are we fucken stuck here? My fiancé is pregnant, we’re about to have a baby, we’re supposed to fly out in December. Say it goes go on for a year and we’re stuck here having a baby, what happens?”

“And then I’ve got my businesses, do we just shut down businesses if no one’s coming? What happens there? People lose jobs, people get sent home, what are they gonna eat? Does the government step in? How does it affect long term afterwards? I don’t know how long these things last for. I wouldn’t have a freaken clue about volcanoes,” he says.

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