While agencies in Bali brace themselves as Mount Agung’s hazard status was raised from alert level three to four last Friday evening, there remains a strong hope that it will be business as usual for tourism on the island.
Indonesia Centre for Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation (PVMBG) raised the hazard status to ‘danger’ following the intensifying tremors, and extended the danger zone from a nine-kilometre radius to 12 from the crater. High atop the mountain, the iconic Besakih Temple has been declared closed to tourists.
Further concerning the travel trade is the fact that Mount Agung is located 72 km away from Kuta Beach and other popular tourist destinations including Denpasar and Nusa Dua.
Still, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, head of central data information and public relations of the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), assured travellers that the areas beyond the delineated red zone are safe to visit.
Reports also showed places of interest such as Tanah Lot, Uluwatu, Lake Beratan Bedugul, Tampak Siring Palace, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Sanur Beach, Tanjung Benoa and Nusa Penida had remained busy during the weekend.
Similarly, activities at Ngurah Rai International Airport up to press time were operating as per normal, as were all domestic and international flights.
Speaking to the media following a meeting to anticipate threats over aviation safety should the mountain erupt, Agus Santoso, director general of air communications of the Ministry of Transportation, said: “(Until Sunday morning), there was no detection of volcanic ash emitted from the mountain and all flight operations to and from Bali ran normally.”
Agus called on all flights taking off or landing in Bali to be extremely cautious and to observe all standard operating procedures.
He said Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) would be issued immediately should changes be detected in the status of the mountain and should an eruption occur.
He also announced that a number of airports have been made ready to receive diverted planes bound for Bali. These international airports are in Lombok, Surabaya, Semarang, Jogjakarta, Banyuwangi and Makassar.
Meanwhile, The Australian reported on Saturday that all flights operated by Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Qantas remained unaffected. Virgin Australia announced that some of its Bali-bound flights would make a refuelling stop in Darwin as a precautionary measure, so that if the mountain erupted while a flight was on the way, it would be able to get passengers back to the original airport safely.