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Jln. By Pass Ida Bagus Mantra,
Jln. Pucuk 1 No. 70X
Denpasar, Bali

+62 (0)812 3819724
+62 (0)361 464 032, +62 (0)361 471 0242

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Stay Calm. Keep Calm. Itís Only a Volcano.

Editorial: Please Stop Talking About the Evacuation of Bali

Bali News: Bali, Indonesia, evacuation plans,, exclusion zone, editorial, safety, security, Mount Agung Volcano
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It was Franklin D. Roosevelt who spoke the famous axiom: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.”

That bon mot applies equally today in Bali – an Island that is suffering a crippling downturn in arrivals for no other reason that people are frightened.

Frightened of what?

It as though these irrational fears are fueled by the cataclysmic imagery of the Hollywood blockbuster “Dante’s Peak” (1997) that saw Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton narrowly escaping a volcanic eruption hell bent on destroying the fictional burgh of Dante’s Peak in an unrelenting hail and brimstone.

Nice film. But, horrible volcanology.

Closer to home in Bali, the 3,000-meter high Mount Agung showed signs of reawakening in September 2017 after a “nap” of more than 50 years. Some of the world’s best volcano experts were immediately on top of these developments raising the alert status to the highest level of “4” before a magmatic eruption in late November ejected volcanic dust into Bali’s airspace and caused a 2.5-day closure of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport.

Those same experts - using data, continuing scientific monitoring, experience drawn from the past history of Mount Agung, and knowledge derived from Indonesia’s unequalled inventory of active volcanoes have run every imagineable scenario for Bali’s largest volcano, including a major eruption equal or greater than its last major eruption in 1963-1964.

The resulting modeling has allowed scientist to produce a fairly exact exclusion zone measured roughly within an 8.5 km radius from Mount Agung’s peak. That exclusion zone considered to be at direct risk from a major eruption, populated primarily by Balinese agriculturalist, has been evacuated and its residents moved to temporary camps outside the exclusion zone.

While admittedly  there was significant loss of life in the 1963 eruption of Mount Agung, that same eruption, were it to occur today, would result in nil loss of life providing the parameters of the exclusion zone are honored. In all, the area of Bali under direct threat from an eruptionrepresents some 2% of the Island’s landmass and is far removed from main tourist zones.

Been there. Done that.

Sorry to disappoint thrill seekers, but tourists visiting Bali are at no risk of a starring role in a remake of Dante’s Peak.

Those of us who spend our daily lives on the Island keep track of Mount Agung via the Internet and news media with no one expecting rivers of hot lava or floods of cold lahar to start flowing through the streets of Ubud, Denpasar, Nusa Dua, Kuta, Lovina, or Tabanan. The active volcano is not uppermost in the minds of those of us living in Bali.

A much more valid concern is the threat of volcanic ash distrubing the flight paths of airplanes traveling to and from Bali. Sophisticated machinery and expert monitor and track every puff of smoke emanating from the volcano and where the prevailing winds will carry them. When deemed a danger to aviation, the Bali airport will be closed.

An eruption in late November produced sufficient dust in the upper atmosphere over Bali that a decision was made to close Bali’s airport for 2.5 days.

And while flights were cancelled and diverted as the result of that closure, there was no “evacuation” of the Island ordered. Visitors under time pressures and unable to wait for the airport’s reopening, were provided air-conditioned transport by private cars, bus or train to Surabaya’s Juanda International Airport in East Java. Others, simply waited out Mother Nature's will and relaxed at hotel, took an Island tour or visited one of Bali’s many attractions.

In fact, it’s high time everyone stops talking about “evacuation plans.” There isn’t one. The vast majority of those who live on the Island of Bali do not live in abject fear of Mount Agung and have no plans to be leaving the island.

The only “evacuation plan” underway has been completed and involved the relocation of people living within the exclusion zone around the base of the Mount Agung volcano. None of the worst-case scenarios even suggest the people living in the remaining 98% of Bali are at any direct threat from an eruption.

The plan for people to travel by road to Java in the event of a temporary closure of Bali’s airport is NOT an evacuation plan, but simply an alternate means of leaving Bali by land and sea for those unwilling or unable to wait in the event of an airport closure.

So let’s stop talking about “evacuations.” The use of that word fuels non-realistic Hollywood brain imagery of people rushing to safety in an island being consumed in fire and brimstone.

Bali: you’re free to come and free to leave.

If a flight is not available and you really need to leave - do so by road.

Otherwise, grab a seat nearby at the hotel's pool and pass us another bottle of cold Bintang.

Related Editorial

Keep Calm. It’s Only a Volcano

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