KARANGASEM, Indonesia — A week after authorities put Bali’s volcano on high alert, tremors that indicate an eruption is coming show no sign of abating, swelling the exodus from the region to at least 140,000 people.
Disaster authorities on the Indonesian island famed for its lush tropical interior and beguiling beaches said Friday that instruments recorded more than 450 tremors from cone-shaped Mount Agung from dawn until dusk.
The disaster agency said more than 144,000 people have now left areas around the volcano, including from places outside the immediate danger zone.
But Bali’s governor, Made Mangku Pastika, urged people from officially safe areas — more than 75,000 people by his estimate — to return home.
He said there is no reason for them to evacuate and they’ve become a “burden” on genuine evacuees and the temporary shelters set up to receive them. Authorities can use village registration details to identify official evacuees, he said.
Near the edges of the danger zone, which extends as far as 12 kilometers (7 miles) in places, some hamlets appeared devoid of people but daily life continued in others.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can’t predict anything,” said villager Wayan Sudarma, who still returns to the mountain to help evacuate cattle. He said he’s not afraid despite the risks.
Volcanologists say the past week’s dramatic escalation in tremors indicates an eruption is more likely than not, but they can’t say with certainty when it will happen.
Periodic plumes of vapor from the crater are another sign of rising magma within the volcano.
“Water in cracks and fissures is being changed to vapor because the temperature is rising,” said David Boutelier, a geologist at Australia’s University of Newcastle. “Vapor is more indirect evidence of magma rising under the volcano. It could still explode or lead to a lava flow.”