Mount Agung, in Indonesia, has been throwing out clouds of white and grey ash high up in the sky after it erupted on 24th November. Hoards of people have been evacuated and there and thousands more to be rescued out of the danger zone of the volcano. Explosive eruptions have been sending out a number of blasts which can be heard as far as 12kms away from the volcano. The possibility of a major eruption is unavoidable in the present circumstances.
According to the Disaster Mitigation Agency in Karangasem, 40,000 people are now living in 225 shelters while there are lakhs of others who are refusing to leave their lands and livestock. Most of them, reportedly, felt safe at their homes rather than shelters. Lack of rationality can now be the bigger problem for the Indonesian government in regards to the unwarranted plea of the people to negate from evacuating their villages. About 1,00,000 people, living around 10kms of the ash spewing Mount Agung, have been told to leave the area before the major eruption occurs.
On the other hand, cyclone Cempaka has been making its way along Indonesia, off the southeast coast of Java, thereby blowing the volcanic ash towards the popular beaches of Indonesia. The ash is expected to spread throughout the region till the next couple of days until the cyclone subsides.
The effects of the eruption have already been seen on the life of the Indonesian population.
People have been living in the rescue shelters from 24th September when the first warning for Mount Agung’s eruption was sent out. Their lifestyle and earnings have gone through a drastic change since then. One of the resident of the village near Mount Agung, now living in the rescue shelter built inside a sports complex, said, “We came here on motorcycles. We had to evacuate because our house is just 3 miles from the mountain. We were so scared with the thundering sound and red light. If it has to erupt let it erupt now rather than leaving us in uncertainty. I’ll just accept it if our house is destroyed.”
Bali airport was hit with the ash flowing all over the sky. The visibility was low and jet planes cannot fly in such conditions. The airport was shut for about 24 hours on 27th November. It was reopened on 28th November when the winds drifted some of the ash clouds making it possible for the flights to take off. The airport has now been shut again since 29th November. The majority affected by the airport shut down includes international tourists. Some of them have even been advised to take a flight after 27th December with no other information.
Tourism is the biggest industry in Indonesia with over 5 million tourists visiting the country each year. The last time Mount Agung had an eruption in February 1963, it went on to erupt and explode till January 1964. Keeping these facts in mind, it is not difficult to say that the current volcanic activity will have its adverse effects on the tourism industry in India.
If the major eruption occurs, the sulfur compounds present in the sulfur dioxide gas being spewed out along with ash from the volcano will scatter the sunlight, making the planet cooler by 0.1 or 0.2 degrees. It may also result in the change in the global rainfall pattern. The eruption will have huge negative effects on the earth as well as Indonesia alone wherein it will take years for the country to recover from the calamity.
With its location over the Pacific Ring of Fire and possession of over 120 active volcanoes, the possibility of a major eruption cannot be ignored. The precautionary measures may be a little better than what was taken in 1963 but the volcanic eruption is bound to cause losses to property, at least.