Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The alert status for Mount Agung was raised to Watch, or Level IV, on Sept 22 following increased seismic activity, though authorities ensure that Bali remains safe for tourists, particularly locations far from the volcano.
Indonesias Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Center (PVMBG) has appealed to tourists and residents to avoid any activity near the crater of Mount Agung and all northward, northeastward, southeastward, and south-southwestward areas within a 12-kilometer radius of its peak, increasing the area from six kilometers announced earlier.
"All people in the areas must be evacuated starting from 8:30 p.m. local time today (Sept. 23). No tourist or public activity is allowed there," Kasbani of the PVMBG emphasized.
However, despite increased volcanic activity at the 3,142-meter-high Mount Agung, Bali remains safe for tourists, according to Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB).
"Until now, Bali is still safe for tourist visits, except the area within the radius around Mt Agung where any activity has been banned by the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)," he informed the press on Sept 23.
Several key Balinese destinations, such as Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Lake Beratan Bedugul, Tampak Siring Palace, Bali Safari and Marine Park, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Sanur and Kuta beaches, Tanjung Benoa, Goa Gajah, and Nusa Penida, are safe and not affected by the increased volcanic activity at Mount Agung.
"Tourist destinations in Bali are still safe. Please visit and enjoy the natural scenery, culture, culinary, and other attractions of Bali Island. The government will surely issue an early warning and information accurately if the volcano endangers the safety of the public," he said.
Tourist attractions and Ngurah Rai International Airport are located at a distance from Mount Agung, he remarked.
"The flight activities remain normal. Hence, there is no reason to be concerned about the safety of tourists in Bali," he pointed out.
The BNPB issued the statement to counter hoax or fake information about Mt Agungs status that could instill fear among the people to cancel their visit to Bali.
Several foreign embassies have contacted the BNPB command post to seek information on the condition of Mt Agung and the necessary precautionary arrangements in place. Several Balinese people were also panic-stricken, he noted.
"A national command center will soon be activated to accompany the regional governments. Logistic aid supplies and equipment will soon be provided at the evacuation centers. Coordination meetings between the concerned ministries and other offices will immediately be conducted," he revealed.
Sign posts will soon be put up at strategic locations to demarcate safe and risky areas.
"The people are urged to remain calm and not be provoked by misleading rumors. Mt. Agung has not erupted. Monitoring, however, has being intensified," he remarked.
Another assurance has been voiced by the Bali Tourism Office. Circulars will be sent to consulate general officers of foreign countries, urging them to inform their people to not be afraid of visiting Bali, Anak Agng Gede Yuniartha Putra, head of the Bali Tourism Office, stated.
"Indeed, an alert status has been declared for Mt Agung, but the tourists continue to arrive in Bali, as several tourist destinations in Bali are not in proximity to Mt Agung, such as the Besakih Temple in Karangasem, are not affected and open normally," he noted.
He urged the media to not exaggerate reports on Mt Agung showing signs of volcanic activity.
He regretted a report by an Australian television channel claiming that Mount Agung spewed smoke into the air, when in reality, it did not happen.
"I think the Australian people are smart and know the condition in Bali. Hence, please come to Bali," he said.
He expressed hope that if Mount Agung were to finally erupt, it would not be a major event that would lead to the closure of Bali airport.
The number of foreign tourist arrivals in Bali from January to August 2017 had reached 3.99 million, an increase of 25 percent as compared to that recorded during the same period last year.
According to data of the Bali statistics office, Bali had received 4.92 million foreign tourists in 2016, an increase of 23.14 percent as compared to 4.001 million in 2015.
Bali has set a target to attract 5.5 million foreign tourists this year.
Since mid-August, the Gunung Agung volcano has shown a rise in volcanic activity, but then it declined, and now, it is increasing again.
Several local villagers voluntarily fled to the neighboring areas of Buleleng, Klungkung, and Karangasem, as the locations were considered safe.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika affirmed that the government is prepared to face any eventualities in the face of Gunung Agung possibly erupting and has readied an evacuation post, refugee camp, and security measures.
"We can report to the citizens of Bali and internationally that we are ready to face the worst, even though we pray that it never happens," the governor added.
According to the BNPB, a total of 9,421 people have been evacuated in 50 locations in three districts following an increase in the mountains seismic activity.
Records since 1800 reveal that Mount Agung had experienced four mega eruptions, respectively in 1908, 1823, 1843, and 1963.
Source: ANTARA News