Remembering 1963 eruption, Bali’s elderly wary of another

KLUNGKUNG, Indonesia (AP) — Bali’s glowering Mount Agung has seemingly quieted since hurling huge columns of ash from its crater a week ago, but some villagers on the Indonesian island who survived the catastrophic 1963 explosions believe a bigger eruption is coming.

Ash plumes have dissipated in the past few days though an online seismogram from the mountain’s monitoring post resembles a crazed abstract painting, indicating the tremendous forces churning within.

Explosions from the smoking crater and tremors still rattle the surrounding region and authorities have maintained Agung’s alert at the highest level. Its 1963 eruptions killed about 1,100 people.

“The situation now is almost the same,” said Nengah Tresni, who was 12 when Agung erupted in 1963. She recalls being at one of the Hindu temples that dot the volcano’s slopes and the sky suddenly turning dark as she left with her family.

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“I’m sure there will be a big eruption. It is just a matter of time,” said Tresni, who came with family members on Tuesday to an ageing sports center that’s serving as an evacuation camp after officials told them to leave their village.

“In the old eruption many people did not expect it to be big because there were small eruptions for a long time and villagers just went to the temple to pray,” she said.

It’s the second time Tresni has fled to the camp since September, when the 3,140-meter (10,300-foot) volcano burst into life after more than half a century of inactivity. Officials lowered the volcano’s alert level at the end of October and most of the 140,000 people who had evacuated returned home. It proved to be a brief respite.

“I actually didn’t want to go back because I thought there would be big eruptions, but my family wanted to go home,” she said. “And now we’re refugees here again.”

Nyoman Siki from a village high on the volcano’s slopes was 6 or 7 years old in 1963 and remembers it being said that 200 people from his area were killed. But he was philosophical about the situation. When people returned a year after the eruption, he said they were happy because it had renewed the fertility of the land.

“After years of cultivation, the volcano is just about to erupt again,” he said.

More than 55,000 people are living in shelters such as sports halls, temples and tent camps since officials expanded the no-go area…

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