Mount Agung: Bali volcano alert raised to highest level as danger zone expanded

Mount Agung Credit: PA

Fears of an imminent eruption of Bali's Mount Agung prompted authorities to expand the danger zone around the volcano as the alert was raised to the highest level.

Up to 100,000 people have been ordered to evacuate the surrounding area and the island's international airport was forced to close, stranding tens of thousands of travellers.

Mount Agung has been hurling clouds of white and dark grey ash about 9,800ft (3,000m) into the atmosphere since the weekend and lava is welling up in the crater.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency raised the alert level early on Monday, saying that a large eruption is possible.

The danger zone was expanded to up to six miles (10km) from the volcano in places, a zone which encompasses the island's international airport.

Some 445 flights were cancelled, affecting about 59,000 travellers, airport spokesman Air Ahsanurrohim said, after officials took the decision to ground all flights for 24 hours after the danger level was raised to the highest level.

Villages close to the volcano have been left coated in a thin layer of ash, while soldiers and police have been distributing masks.

The threat level was raised after the eruptions from Mount Agung shifted from steam-based to magmatic ones.

Flights from Bali have been grounded for 24 hours. Credit: PA

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that between 90,000 and 100,000 people in 22 villages have been affected by the extension of the danger zone.

He continued that only around 40,000 people have followed orders to evacuate as many said they felt safe while others did not want to abandon their livestock.

"Authorities will comb the area to persuade them," he said.

"If needed we will forcibly evacuate them."

Some 100 buses have been sent to Bali's airport and ferry terminals to help stranded travellers, with many deciding to take the ferry to the neighbouring island of Java and its airports.

About 25,000 people were already living in evacuation centres after an increase in tremors from the mountain in September sparked an evacuation.

The volcano's last major eruption in 1963 killed some 1,100 people.

Indonesia sits on the "Pacific Ring of Fire" and has more than 120 active volcanoes.

Local villagers watch on as Mount Agung erupts. Credit: PA