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Over 75,000 flee Mount Agung

KARANGASEM: Vehicles laden with food, face masks and bedding have been sent to help more than 75,000 people who fled a volcano on the tourist island of Bali, as the Indonesian president flew in to visit crowded aid centres.
Mount Agung, 75km from the resort hub of Kuta, has been rumb­ling since August and threatening to erupt for the first time since 1963 – a potential blow to the country’s lucrative tourism industry.
Increasingly frequent tremors showed that the molten magma was still rising towards the surface, with the mountain entering a “critical phase”, said the national disaster mitigation agency.
It said the number fleeing their homes had increased as fears grew that the mountain could erupt.
“The local mitigation agency reported that until noon yesterday, the number had reached 75,673 people, spread across 377 evacuation centres in nine districts,” said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Around 62,000 people lived in the danger zone before the evacuations, according to the agency, but residents just outside the area have also left as a precaution.
The Indonesian Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said there had been an increase in volcanic tremors, with a total of 564 recorded on Monday.
Evacuees packed into temporary shelters or moved in with relatives. Some 2,000 cows were also evacuated from the flanks of the volcano.
Speaking in Klungkung district, President Joko Widodo told evacuees the government would do its best to reduce economic losses incurred during the evacuation.
“It is not easy to handle a volcanic eruption because there is no certainty when it’s going to happen or if it’s going to happen at all,” he said.
“I ask everybody near Mount Agung to listen to the officials, the governor and the mayor’s instructions so we can all minimise the impact of this volcano.”
Balinese residents, international NGOs and the central government have begun organising aid.
Vehicles loaded with noodles, mineral water and blankets have been sent to the evacuation centres, while residents around the island have been collecting donations.
Bali’s “sister village” programme and tradition of communal assistance means evacuees have been able to stay in villages outside the danger zone.
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