Show respect to the wrath of nature
With a volcano threatening Bali and areas counting the deadly cost of hurricanes, everyone must work together to counter the threat of such events
The fury of nature cannot be tamed, although measures can be taken to lessen its impact. Hong Kong has repeatedly shown that during typhoon season with robust infrastructure and warning systems. The Mount Agung volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali has been rumbling for months and threatens to erupt as it did in 1963, when more than 1,500 people were killed. Evacuations have been ordered and an exclusion zone put in place, but such precautions will be of limited worth unless there is constant communication between scientists and authorities, and alerts are closely followed by residents and visitors.
Bali is Indonesia’s prime tourist destination with five million visitors a year. The Indonesian government is eager to push the nation’s growth rate beyond the 5 per cent it has been stuck at and promoting tourism is among its strategies. An eruption of Agung would send those plans awry, the ash preventing air traffic and any casualties and damage likely to negatively impact the island’s image and economy. There may be a temptation to play down the threat.
But nature should never be treated lightly; the hurricane disasters in the past two months in the Caribbean and the southern United States prove that. Science has improved in recent years, though, allowing greater time to take precautions. But there will always be an element of unpredictability and that is especially so with volcanoes. With the right equipment and monitoring, scientists can predict when an eruption will occur, although they are less certain on the amount and impact of lava flows, dust and poisonous gases.
Agung caused devastation when it last erupted, but the heavy death toll, homelessness and economic hardship of 54 years ago will not be repeated. Bali now has vastly improved infrastructure, communication and warning and support systems. The mountain is in the island’s northeast, 75km from the popular resort of Kuta, and measures in place mean an eruption will have little direct impact. But the uncertainties show there is no room for complacency; scientists and authorities have to work closely and those living in the shadow of the volcano have to heed warnings and orders.