Agung Watch 2017: Aviation alert raised to second highest level for region, 10 airports on standby for Bali flight diversion

An “orange” aviation alert—the second highest level—has been issued for Bali’s Mt. Agung, as the volcano threatens to erupt at any moment.

The alert was raised on Tuesday night by the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center (PVMBG), based on estimates that a potential eruption would have a height of five to ten kilometers.

“Because Mt. Agung is at critical status, although ash has not appeared, but there is magma beneath the surface, we have issued this ‘orange’ alert to pilots, because it can erupt at any time,” head of PVMBG, Gede Suantika said on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake which was recorded northwest of the volcano on Tuesday afternoon also helped trigger the status upgrade, Suantika said.

“Once there is a big earthquake, we are afraid of a sudden eruption.”

However, looking at Agung’s volcanic activity, Suantika said the number of tremors has decreased, but the energy level seems to be going up, as magma rises.

PVMBG recorded 448 tremors on Monday, but just 416 on Tuesday, he said.

Based on a visual observation of Agung between midnight and 6am on Wednesday, the volcano is surrounded by fog, but there have been no signs of an eruption, according to Suantika.

An exclusion zone of nine kilometers from the mountain’s peak going southwest, south southeast, northeast and north remains in place. As many as 75,000 local residents have fled their homes in evacuation. 

However, flights are still operational in and out of Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport for the time being. If the alert reached the highest level—red—the airport would get shut down.

AirNav Indonesia has selected 10 other airports in the country as alternative landing spots for aircraft flying into Denpasar, should the aviation alert get upgraded to red in the face of an Agung eruption.

According to AirNav Indonesia President Director Novie Riyanto, the 10 airports include: Jakarta, Makassar, Surabaya, Balikpapapn, Solo, Ambon, Manado, Praya, Kupang, and Banyuwangi. All airports are prepared for narrow-bodied aircraft. Wide-bodied aircraft would be redirected specifically to Surabaya, Makassar, or even Jakarta.

“If the eruption occurs, the the planes supposed to land in Bali will be transferred to 10 other airports. Today we call the general managers of these 10 airports to conduct a predatory meeting if the eruption occurs,” Riyanto said in a statement, released on Tuesday.

“We are monitoring all developments, and if there is an eruption, we are ready,” says Riyanto.

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