by Gavin Haines, The Telegraph, September 27, 2017
A state of emergency has been declared on the holiday island of Bali after volcanologists warned that an eruption at Mount Agung volcano is imminent.
When did the volcano last erupt?
Mount Agung last erupted in 1963 with devastating consequences for people living nearby. It began on February 18 when locals heard loud bangs and saw smoke billowing from the volcano. Six days later lava started flowing from the crater and managed to travel up to 4.5 miles (7km) over the following weeks.
The eruptions continued throughout the year causing pyroclastic flows, which were responsible for killing more than 1,100 people and injuring hundreds more.
Is the island prepared this time?
It seems to be. An exclusion zone of up to 7.5 miles (12km) has been established around the crater and 75,000 residents living near the volcano have been evacuated.
Indonesia’s national disaster agency has dispatched 640,000 face masks, 12,500 mattresses, 8,400 blankets and 50 tents, while the central government has set aside a relief fund of nearly $150 million (£112m) in case of an eruption.
What will happen if it erupts?
If it’s anything like the 1963 eruption, there is likely to be widespread destruction to nearby property, however, given the aforementioned preparations, the human cost is likely to be much lower.
Volcano eruptions can cause widespread disruption beyond the crater. When Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted in 2010, more than 100,000 flights were grounded in Europe due to fears that the ash could get into plane engines. It was the largest air-traffic shut down since the Second World War.
It’s too early to tell if a similar situation could play out in Asia, but if it does it could have a major impact on international flights. Airlines are monitoring the situation, but are still flying as usual.
Will this affect my holiday?
Bali’s main resorts do not fall into the exclusion zone that currently surrounds the volcano. Airlines are still flying to the island and tour operators are still sending holidaymakers there. However, visitors will find their movements restricted around the volcano.
Can I cancel my holiday?
Yes, but don’t expect a refund. Unless the the Foreign Office (FCO) advises against travelling to the island – which it currently doesn’t – tour operators are not obliged to offer refunds or arrange an alternative holiday. For now, it’s business as usual.
What if it erupts when I’m there?
The FCO urges travellers to follow the advice of the local authorities. It adds: “In the event of an eruption and volcanic ash clouds, which could cause flight disruptions, you should confirm your travel arrangements directly with your airline or travel agent before travelling to the airport.”
If Mount Agung erupts and leaves you stranded on the island, the options available to you will depend largely on how you booked your holiday. If you booked through a tour operator that operator will have a duty of care towards you; it would be obliged to get you home by alternative means or look after you.
If you booked your own flight to the island then you would be on your own: in such situations airlines are under no obligation to get passengers home by any other means or compensate them while they’re stranded.
What should I do before travelling to Bali?
Check your insurance policy. Some insurance companies don’t insure for “acts of God”, which often include volcanic eruptions. And those that do may not pay out for natural disasters that were “known events”, such as the predicted eruption of Mount Agung.