More than 130,000 people have fled the region around the Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali, fearing it will soon erupt.
Evacuees living closest to the volcano are being housed in tents, schools and government buildings in neighbouring villages.
Many are unsure if they will be able to return to their homes. “If my house is destroyed I don’t know how to restart my life. I don’t know where my kids will sleep and all I can do now is pray,” said farmer Gusti Gege Astana.
The disaster mitigation agency’s command post in Bali said the number of evacuees has swelled to about 134,200 by Thursday evening. That’s more than double the estimated population within the immediate danger zone, but people farther from the mountain are leaving too.
Those who have fled are scattered in more than 500 locations across the island famed for its beaches, lush green interior and elegant Hindu culture, taking shelter in temporary camps, sports centers and other public buildings.
The volcano has been at its highest alert level for a week, sparking the exodus. Thousands of cows were left behind in the rural communities where farming is an important livelihood, but local animal husbandry officials were arranging trucks to remove them.
The exclusion zone around the mountain extends as far as 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the crater in places. The local observatory reported a small plume most likely of water vapor after daybreak Friday, but no ash cloud.
If the volcano erupts, flights to Bali could be diverted to ten airports across Indonesia.
Hundreds of flights were disrupted last year when a volcano erupted on Bali’s Lombok island, sending ash clouds into the air.