Visitors to Bali increasing despite warnings about tremors

TOURISTS are still visiting Indonesia’s island resort of Bali in increasing numbers despite warnings of possible volcanic activity following minor eruptions from Mount Batur.

In fact, the Indonesian government is expecting a 19 per cent rise in travellers to Bali this month compared to the same period last year, according to Miss Mardani, director of the Tourism, Post and Telecommunication Office in Bali.

She said in a telephone interview with The Straits Times yesterday: “The eruptions are very small and have no impact on Bali except in areas close to Mount Batur.”

Tourists and residents have been warned of more intense eruptions following nearly 500 minor episodes last week.

The 1,717-m Mount Batur, which has been dormant for the last 20 years, is about 80 km north-east of Bali’s main southern tourist centre, which includes Denpasar, Sanur, Nusa Dua and Kuta Beach.

These areas did not experience tremors following the eruptions, she said.

The area affected was the Bangli Regency where the volcano is situated. About 180,000 people live here, but there are only about 500 people living in what is called the “critical region”.

Bali was prepared for an emergency if the volcano now belching smoke and ash erupted more forcefully, said Miss Mardani.

A Reuter report quoted a spokesman for the local governor’s office as saying that emergency stations were being set up near the volcano.

Miss Mardani yesterday pointed to the almost fully-booked hotels on the island as a sign that tourists were not deterred by the volcanic activity.

Nearly 1.6 million tourists visited Bali last year, about 100,000 of whom were there in August, the peak period.

Several hotels in Bali contacted by The Straits Times yesterday said that their business had not been affected.

Said Mrs Marianti, a reservations manager at the Bali Dynasty Hotel: “Tourists are surprisingly intrigued and excited about being able to see such eruptions. They are not scared at all.

About 300 people try to reach its jagged crater every day. The 183-m-deep crater measures 11 km long and about six km wide.

Seismologists in Bali have recorded eruptions every three minutes from Mt Batur, which has been spewing ash as high as 200 m. Officials believe this is likely to intensify.

Mr Bam Beng of the Orient Express travel agency in Bali said that he still took travellers to the site as it was safe. Lava from the eruption flowed into a lake near the volcano and was a safe distance away from onlookers.

That recent volcanic eruptions had taken place came as a surprise to one Singapore traveller, Mr Ng Cheow Hua.

“It is all peace and quiet here,” said the 30-year-old engineer, who is on a three-day holiday to Bali.

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