Over 75,000 residents of Bali have been evacuated this week as the island’s authorities warn that the volcano, Mount Agung, is on the verge of erupting. The evacuation has cleared a perimeter of up to 7.5 miles around the volcano. Instruments monitoring the seismic activity of Mount Agung recorded 844 earthquakes on Monday and nearly half as many again by Tuesday afternoon.
“We have never recorded such high energy or seismicity from Mount Agung,” said Indonesian seismologist Devy Kamil Syahbana. “These kinds of earthquakes indicate the movement of magma and increase the probability of an eruption,” Syahbana told The Guardian on Tuesday. The heightened activity had some scientists predicting that Mount Agung could erupt as early as Tuesday night.
Volcanology, or the study of volcanoes, is not yet a precise science. Further complicating the Mount Agung situation is the fact that there is no data on the volcano prior to its 1963 eruption. That eruption killed 1,000 people. Seismologists monitoring Mount Agung now can only compare the current activity to word-of-mouth reports of what happened prior to the volcano’s eruption in 1963.
As a result of the possible impending eruption, the United States, United Kingdom and Australia have released travel advisories. There are no ash clouds as of yet, so the Ngurah Raih international airport in Bali is still offering their normal flight schedule. Should Mount Agung erupt and/or produce ash clouds, Bali’s travel authorities have made arrangements to reroute flights to regional airports on neighboring islands.
Mount Agung is one of 452 volcanoes comprising the area known as the Ring of Fire. The Ring of Fire is the most seismically active area in the world, accounting for over 80% of the largest recorded earthquakes. Indonesian volcanoes are among the most active. Mount Merapi on the Indonesian island of Javi has erupted over 80 times including a large eruption in 2010 that killed over 300 people and displaced over 320,000 residents.