Bali volcano: 120,000 people flee over eruption fears

More than 120,000 people have fled the region around the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali over fears it will erupt.

The figure is more than double the estimated population within an immediate danger zone but people further away are leaving too.

The volcano has been at its highest alert level since Friday, sparking the massive exodus of villagers. Thousands of cows left behind by rural communities are also being evacuated.

Those who have fled are scattered in more than 500 locations across the island famed for its beaches, green interior and Hindu culture, taking shelter in temporary camps, sports centres and other public buildings.

A farmer watches Mount Agung volcano in his field in Amed, Bali. Credit: AP

Villager Nyoman Suarta, carrying a cage housing a bird, said: "I was very worried about the situation. So I decided to get out to save myself with my stuff and my pet."

Agung, which dominates the landscape in the northeast of the island, last erupted in 1963, killing more than 1,100 people. It remained active for about a year.

Volcanologists say the past week's dramatic escalation in tremors indicates an eruption is more likely than not, but cannot say with certainty when it will happen.

An evacuees' camp in Klungkung, Bali. Credit: AP

Heather Handley, of Sydney's Macquarie University Earth Sciences, said: "I would definitely be following the advice to stay outside the exclusion zone.

"The increase in tremors suggests an eruption is imminent."

Its eruptions in 1963 produced deadly clouds of searing hot ash, gases and rock fragments that traveled down its slopes at great speed. Lava spread for several kilometers and people were also killed by rivers of water and volcanic debris.

Officials this week installed warning sirens in several townships.

Warning signs a volcano will erupt:

  • Hundreds of small earthquakes will occur due to the rising magma through cracks in the Earth's crust.

  • Temperatures around the volcano rise.

  • It starts to release gases. The higher the sulfur content of these gases, the closer the volcano is to erupting.