Bali’s Mount Agung erupted again on February 13, 2018, just days after Indonesian authorities lowered the alert status from Hazardous (Level IV) to Standby (Level III). The eruption lasted just over two minutes and spewed ash and smoke 1.5 kilometers into the air. Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) reported that there was no damage, community activities are running normally and flights to Bali continue to operate despite the eruption. The Coral Reef Alliance (CORAL) continues to monitor and support our community partners in the affected villages of Tulamben, Amed and Jemeluk.
Mount Agung began exhibiting pre-eruption seismic activity in September, 2017, and authorities evacuated communities within a 12-kilometer radius of the volcano. When two eruptions occurred in late November nearly 140,000 people had been evacuated, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Mount Agung erupted again several times but with less intensity, and authorities lowered the alert status to Level III on February 11, 2018. But two days later the volcano erupted again and reignited fear and anxiety in nearby communities. Concerns are especially heightened as older generations vividly remember the devastating effects of the 1963 eruption, which claimed the lives of approximately 1,600 people, destroyed dozens of villages and lasted for almost a year.
I Made Jaya Ratha, CORAL’s Indonesia Program Coordinator, reports that most evacuees from Tulamben have returned home, and reef monitoring and trash cleanup programs have resumed. Challenging conditions such as lack of food and crowded sleeping areas have been contributing factors in the decision to return home to an at-risk area.
But life at home is not easy, says Ratha. Tourism is the primary economic driver for many coastal communities in the region, and a scuba diving moratorium in Tulamben closed resorts in October and November. The tourism industry is also struggling in the nearby villages of Amed and Jemeluk, after visitors canceled bookings in light of travel warnings. Meanwhile, prices of fresh produce have increased as ash falls on fields that lack farmers to tend them.
Despite these challenges, communities are coming together to rebuild their lives. CORAL staff brought fresh water, vegetables and ventilation masks to evacuated communities during the worst of the volcanic activity, and are working with villages to prioritize their needs. While the memory of the 1963 eruption still looms in their minds, community members are returning home, looking forward and hoping for a calmer future.