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BerichtOnderwerp: Mount Agung volcano: Satellite image reveals new crack in crater   za 30 sep 2017 - 3:05

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, SEPTEMBER 29 2017

Bali: Satellite images have revealed a new crack in the crater of Bali's Mount Agung and a pillar of white steam is now emitting continuously from the volcano.

Brimob paramilitary forces are patrolling the danger zone urging those who have returned  - usually to feed their livestock or evacuate their cows - to go back to the evacuation camps.

They look daunting with guns, helmets and black face masks but are all smiles.

Officer Made Sriartha says police understand why people have come back and are not forcing anyone to leave, merely appealing to them to return to safety.

Made Sigi evacuated six days ago from his home in the Besakih area, nine kilometres from the summit, but returns every day to feed his four cows, 20 chickens and three dogs.

"My father said that in 1963 this area was only affected by volcanic ash so it is safe to leave the animals here," he said.

Most have long gone, spooked not so much by the volcano itself but the constant earthquakes that induce nausea and make houses tremble.

Some have taken their pets with them. At an evacuation centre in Klungkung refugees have erected a makeshift stand for their beloved caged birds in the middle of a sea of tents.

"The fact the quakes keep occurring shows Mount Agung really is in a critical condition, we are just waiting for the d-day it erupts," Gede Suantika from the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation tells Fairfax Media.

"Satellite images show there are changes of solfatara [a natural volcanic steam vent] and there are cracks on the bottom of the volcano."

Mr Suantika said white steam was rarely seen last week from monitoring posts 12 kilometres away but this week could be seen if the sky was clear.

"In the last three days in particular the steam looks higher like a cloud of smoke from a factory funnel," he said.

The Volcanology Centre issued a statement saying if an eruption did occur - which it said was more likely than not - it was most likely to be small at first, although a large eruption could follow.

"The size of future eruptions cannot be determined with certainty." The last time Mount Agung blew in 1963 the eruptions lasted for a year.

The statement said Bali was still safe for travel but visitors should not enter the restricted area, within 12 kilometres from the volcano.

However the head of the Bali Tourism Board, Ida Bagus Agung Partha Adnyana, said tourist operators were concerned about the next six months, including the Christmas and New Year period.

"It seems the travellers or travel agents are doing the 'wait and see' for Christmas and new year," he said. "We need to take care of that. We plan to talk to the government about lowering the alert. It's been a week since the highest (volcano) alert system was imposed and the situation is still the same."

All flights to Bali's international airport are proceeding as normal although the airlines are closely monitoring volcanic activity.

Jetstar said a handful of customers had requested changes to their travel dates, which the airline had accommodated with no change fee.

Virgin Australia also says passengers can cancel their flight without a cancellation fee and be provided with a flight credit to be used at a later date

It says as there is no visible ash cloud flights are planned to operate as scheduled but there may be some delays with some Bali flights making fuel stops in Darwin as a precautionary measure.

Kuta Seaview Boutique Resort, a beachside hotel popular with Australians, said less than 10 per cent of its guests had cancelled bookings between now and the end of October.

Those that had the jitters included Australians, Chinese and Koreans.

One of the most popular tourists destinations in Bali is Pura Besakih - the largest and holiest Hindu temple in Bali - which is in the heart of the danger zone on the slopes of Mount Agung,

Now it is eerily silent with kiosks boarded up and rubbish drifting along the ground. A white cat slinks past.
Pak Wayan has returned to fetch his children's school uniforms from nearby Besakih village and check on his shop, which sells drinks, instant noodles and cigarettes.

He normally earns 50,000 to 200,000 rupiah a day ($5-$20) but is now utterly dependent on government handouts at an evacuation centre
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"Everyone in Bali wishes the mountain would subside," he says.

Remarkably Pura Besakih survived the 1963 eruption with the lava flows missing the temple by metres.

"It was believed to be both a miracle and because of the strategic location of the temple," the head of the Bali Hindu Association Gusti Ngurah Sudiana tells Fairfax Media.

He said the gods had provided spiritual guidance on the most strategic location to build the temple.

Mr Sudiana's father survived the 1963 eruption and was attending a Hindu ceremony when the sky began raining stones.
"He said the rocks only fell on those using an umbrella."

However Mr Sudiana said even though the mountain still looked safe, the association appealed to the community not to pray there until the government said it was safe to do so.

Despite the warnings, Pande Togi, has come to Besakih temple to pray. "I have to pray for Bali to be safe," he said. "God will protect me when I pray."



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