Bali tourists rolling volcano dice
As Bali's Mt Agung volcano continues to rumble ominously and more than 96,000 people evacuate to shelters, Australian tourists on holiday in Bali say they are not worried and not trying to rush home to beat an eruption.
Late on Wednesday, Mt Agung recorded its biggest tremor so far, registering at 4.3. Ten airports around Indonesia are being prepared as alternatives if the expected eruption causes Bali's airport to close. But experts still cannot predict when the mountain will erupt.
It is more than 70km from the tourist hot spots of Kuta and Seminyak.
David and Kellie Smith, from Redhead in Newcastle, are on their first Bali holiday with their two daughters and say they are not concerned by the possibility of Mt Agung erupting.
They have spoken a lot with locals who say the most concern rests with the villagers closest to the mountain.
Like many Australians spoken to yesterday by News Corp Australia at Seminyak and Legian, their travel insurance appears sound, should the volcano erupt.
"We are all covered. I have spoken to our travel agent and she said as soon as she gets notice (of any problems) she will email me," Ms Smith said, adding that they monitor social media for developments.
"If the locals are not panicked, we are not too worried at the moment."
The family arrived in Bali on September 16 just as Mt Agung was rumbling into action and the next day took a day trip, with a guide and driver, to Amed where they had spectacular views of Mt Agung before it was on alert.
"Honestly, we haven't been too worried. We have had people ringing us (to find out what's going on) but from what I understand there is not too much drama," Mr Smith said. They are due to return home on Saturday.
Melbourne man Brett McKenzie was at the Double Six beach yesterday while his three sons, twins Ryan and Jackson, 13, and Bailey, 11, had a surf lesson.
The family arrived in Bali on Sunday and Mr McKenzie said he and his wife had no reservations about coming, knowing that Mt Agung was stirring.
He said they had thoroughly checked the DFAT Smartraveller advice before coming and had travel insurance.
"It is one of those things, it is a force of nature, unavoidable. If we have to stay longer (if the airport closes) we have to stay longer," Mr McKenzie said.
It was about taking personal responsibility and being aware of risks, taking note of the expert warnings.
"Our concern is more with the local Balinese people. These people are subsistence farmers ... in the villages and nearby surroundings and their livelihoods are at risk. That's where our concern comes from, more than ourselves," he said.
Mr McKenzie said due care was needed to avoid any risks, adding it was important to take responsibility for yourself, should Mt Agung erupt.
"I think one thing we are aware of is the unpredictability of the volcano," he said.
He said while his family would be interested to see the volcano itself, they were concerned not to be traipsing up the mountain just to take a look with massive relief efforts under way.
"You don't want thousands of people running up there making it difficult for them," he said.
Throughout the day on Wednesday hundreds of earthquakes were recorded within Mt Agung. Between 6am and 12 noon, there were 521 earthquakes.
The biggest tremor recorded so far came at 1.19pm yesterday registering at 4.3.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from the 12km exclusion zone around the mountain and who are sheltering in evacuation centres further down the mountain.
And shops around Bali reported yesterday having sold out of advanced face masks with filters as people rush to ensure they are stocked up.
Many people were buying in bulk, saying they were donating to the relief effort or intended to volunteer when the eruption happened.
And children, who are in shelters with their parents, are now being organised to attend schools closest to the shelters where they are staying.
Bali's Governor Made Pastika has urged Australians that Bali is safe despite the looming eruption of Mt Agung volcano.
It comes as DFAT updated its travel warning late today, noting the potential for widespread ash fall outside the declared danger zone.
The new travel advice says: "Past eruptions of Agung volcano have shown this volcano's potential to cause significant impacts to the island of Bali, including the potential for widespread ash fall outside the declared danger area surrounding the volcano. Depending on the weather conditions at the time of an eruption, an ash cloud could affect flights and ash fall may impact Denpasar and neighbouring airports in East Java and Lombok, causing widespread disruption to the travelling public. Contact your airline or tour operator directly to confirm travel plans."
At the Klungkung evacuee shelter, large numbers of people, from the volcano slopes, are living inside a large indoor basketball court and sports arena while others are in tents outside. There have been problems with the tents during rain and Mr Pastika said this was the biggest problem now facing authorities.
The agency handling Mt Agung says it is still not possible to say when it would erupt but that the potency was now very large.
"To our brothers and sisters from abroad, of course Bali still safe," Mr Pastika said, adding that the danger area is within a 12km perimeter of the mountain's peak. He said there were many tourist areas away from the mountain which were more than safe.
Mr Pastika spoke to News Corporation today as he visited an emergency shelter for evacuees in Klungkung, which is currently housing more than 3800 people.
"The biggest problem is if the rain comes so that's why we are trying to move them to traditional village halls. People living the tents can't stay there more than one month," he said, for health and sanitation reasons.
At the Klungkung centre, as volunteers cooked food for the evacuees in huge vats, a local library brought its mobile book truck to the shelter so the children could borrow books to read.
Nearby an extended family of 15 shares a 6x4m tent.