The Indonesian disaster management agency has raised the threat level for Mount Agung (around 75km from Bali’s tourist hub of Kuta) to the highest possible level 4, amid fears of a greater eruption. Ash up to half a centimeter thick has settled on villages around the volcano and masks were distributed on the weekend. Rumbling can be heard up to 12km away. Since July 2017, Agung has been discharging volcanic gases after being inactive since 1964. Its eruption in 1963 killed 1,549 people when Agung spewed ash ten kilometres into the air with lava flowing seven kilometres from the summit. Gas and volcanic materials reached 13km from the eruption. Hundreds were buried under lava.
People living within 10km of the mountain have already been told to evacuate. This could tens of thousands of people who will move to shelters or the homes of family members or friends.
Bali’s airport was closed yesterday and today. Although the closure is planned for 18 hours the airport management will evaluate the situation every six hours. 445 flights, 196 international and 249 domestic, and 59,000 passengers were affected. If you have flights booked today then your flight may be cancelled.
What to do:
1. If you are in Bali, follow all instructions. Most tourist areas are well away from the volcano area but be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Keep away from the Volcano area. Civilian sightseers can cause significant disruption.
2. Find the website for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. They usually provide the most reliable picture in English of what is happening in that region
3. Based on other scenarios, expect confusion and chaos. Communications do not operate effectively in Western countries in times of crisis so do not expect anything different in Bali.
4. Register with your government’s traveller enrollment program which allows your country to be in contact with you in an emergency.
5. I would quietly stock up on some extra water, a flashlight/torch, US and Indonesian cash and snacks in case the volcano erupts and transport is curtailed. Make sure all of your devices are fully charged and you have a spare battery back up. Consider grabbing an Indonesian sim with plenty of credit in case you need to call or text or receive calls. Have covered shoes and adequate clothes set aside in case you have to evacuate. If the volcano erupts, then there will be a lot of ash across the whole island (and on neighbouring islands). This may cause breathing difficulties so be prepared for that.
6. Check Your airline’s website for the relevant information on flights to or from Bali:
- Bali airport arrivals and departures.
7. Go to the “Manage Your booking” on your airline’s website and ensure the contact numbers or e-mail address mentioned in your booking are correct. Your airline should email or call you so be ready and prepared.
8. Your airline will attempt to re-book passengers when they are flying again- at no fee cost. This will be tricky depending on when flights recommence as space is very limited at this time of the year. When flights re-commence, they have to get all of the stranded passengers onto flights. It could mean some airlines will run extra services but if they do not, you may find your holiday won’t go ahead or your return could be quite delayed. For “Schoolies”, kids heading to Bali to party after the end of their school year, this could be very disappointing. Higher status Frequent Flyers will usually be accommodated first so if you are in a hurry, call your airline’s Premium service team.
9. If you need to get off Bali in a hurry and your airline cannot help you, there may be two options. The first is to take a car or a bus to Gilimanuk for the ferry to Ketapang, Java and from there take a car, train or bus to Jakarta which will unlikely be closed. The ferry runs evey 15 minutes normally, 24 hours a day. It is usually crowded so in this scenario, expect a long wait. Do not travel by boat to Lombok. Its airport is likely to be closed and congested. The second is, if Denpasar airport is open and there are other airlines flying to other ports, buy a ticket (at your expense) to another airport that your airline operates from eg Jakarta or Singapore and see if your airline will fly you home from there. They should honour your ticket in that situation.
10. If you are stranded whether in Bali or a port travelling to Bali, your airline is not responsible for your meal and accommodation costs as this is a natural disaster. You may get a voucher for a meal if you are lucky. Your hotel and tour companies should waive all fees and cancellation costs if you need to change plans. Talk to them only when you know your flight situation. They will be inundated.
11. Have patience with your airline, tour and hotel staff. It is not their fault and they are trying to do the best they can. A little bit of honey will go much further than vinegar at this time.
12. Always make sure you have travel insurance and that it covers this sort of eventuality. If you are already on Bali and you don’t have any travel insurance then it’s probably too late to buy any to cover for this! Buy Travel insurance when you book if you can.
13. It is highly likely that the Indonesian government will extend visas if you are stuck there and your visa has expired. Show proof of original departure date. Check with your hotel for more information.
14. Consider financially helping PMI, the Indonesian member of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies. They are distributing masks, running evacuation centres and providing counselling in Bali.
Indonesia has 130 volcanoes as part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, image from Magma above. You can follow the state of volcanoes in Indonesia at magma and at the Agung webcam: