December 6, 2017

Bali volcano alert raised to highest level

About 100,000 people near Bali’s Mount Agung have been ordered to evacuate as officials fear a major eruption. Indonesian authorities have raised the state of alert to its highest level, and expanded the exclusion zone around the rumbling volcano. The island’s airport has now closed, leaving thousands stranded in the tourist hotspot. Authorities say dark gas and ash have been billowing up to 3,400m (11,150ft) above the mountain’s summit. Officials have warned residents to stay away from rock and debris flows known as lahars, which have been spotted flowing down from the mountain.

The National Board for Disaster Management raised the alert to level four from 06:00 local time (22:00 GMT Sunday) because of “the possibility and imminent risk of disaster”. The volcano was seen emitting “continuous ash puffs” occasionally accompanied by “explosive eruptions” and “weak booms” that could be heard 12km (7 miles) away from the summit. “The rays of fire are increasingly observed at night. This indicates the potential for a larger eruption is imminent,” it said in a statement (in Indonesian) on its Facebook page. Geologist Mark Tingay of the University of Adelaide told the BBC that Mount Agung now appears to be entering the next phase with a magmatic eruption, where the glow of lava is visible from the crater. But he added that as eruptions are difficult to predict, it was “very hard to tell” how the situation would develop. “These eruptions can be quite large and extensive and violent, but this could also be a relatively minor eruption over time.” He added that Indonesian authorities had made preparations for an eruption for months, and said they appeared “extremely well prepared”, with the situation “well under control”.

The main tourist stretch of Kuta and Seminyak is about 70km (43 miles) from the volcano, far beyond the exclusion zone. But the ash prompted officials to shut down Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport from Monday to Tuesday morning. Airport authorities said 445 flights had been cancelled, affecting 59,000 travellers, while Indonesia’s national hotel association said that stranded tourists staying at member hotels could stay one night for free. The Australian government and the UK’s Foreign Office have advised travellers to be prepared for cancelled flights, closely monitor local media, and to heed local authorities’ warnings. China advised its citizens to be “cautious” if travelling to Bali. The airport on neighbouring island Lombok reopened on Monday morning after it was shut briefly.

Authorities have widened the exclusion zone to a 10km (6 mile) radius from the volcano, and have ordered people in the area to evacuate. On Monday, officials said about 100,000 residents needed to leave, but so far only 40,000 have done so. A spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster agency, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said that some people within the exclusion zone did not leave because the area was not touched the last time it erupted – more than 50 years ago. The volcano first began belching thick gas last week. Officials have been distributing masks for local residents, as ash rains down in the vicinity. Anna Baranova, who works with non-governmental organisation Kopernik that is helping evacuees, said her group was trying to bring in better masks and possibly goggles. “There’s some effort to distribute information and also solar powered TV units which will broadcast information about the evacuation to the camps, should the electricity go out if there’s an eruption,” she told the BBC.

Lahars, also known as “cold lava”, are slurries of rock fragments mixed with water, and have been spotted in fields and rivers near the volcano. Mr Nugroho warned that lahars may increase due to heavy rain and as Mount Agung continues to emit pyroclastic material. He has urged islanders to stay away from lahars, as well as avoid activities near rivers. Authorities first issued warnings of an imminent eruption and raised the alert to the highest level two months ago, after detecting heightened volcanic activity. Following mass evacuations, some islanders returned to their homes in October when the alert level was lowered with a decrease in activity. According to official estimates, the holiday island lost at least $110m (£83m) in tourism and productivity during that major evacuation. The last time Mount Agung erupted, in 1963, more than 1,000 people died. Indonesia sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity. It is home to more than 130 active volcanoes.

No-one can really say at this stage how things will turn out. The volcano might dampen down or the activity could evolve into a very big eruption. Scientists have a network of seismometers around Agung that allow them to follow its rumblings, which give them clues as to what is going on inside. This will be complemented by gas detectors. Again, this gives the researchers insights into the physical processes in play. On top of that the scientists have access to satellite observations. Already these have detected an increase in sulphur dioxide emissions. Radar spacecraft in particular are taking a close look at Agung. They can sense any subtle changes in the shape of the volcano that might indicate a very large volume of magma is moving closer to the surface. It is complex work but the experts in this field are   relatively convinced that a slow uplift on the northern flank has been going on for some time. It may come to nothing, but high-resolution radar data is now being studied to see if more pronounced changes are occurring. [BBC News November 27, 2017]


Kiwi gang member kicked out of Bali, Australia and deported back to NZ

A heavily-tattooed bikie enforcer has been kicked out of Bali and Australia and deported back to New Zealand after his connections to an outlaw motorcycle club became known. Jesse Johnston, who has been living on the NSW Central Coast until recently, was allegedly visiting Indonesia on a gang holiday before he was refused entry into the country, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. After being sent back to Sydney he reportedly got off his flight only to be met by more authorities who were aware of his bikie links, according to the Daily Mail.

Despite claiming he wasn’t a member of the notorious Finks group authorities found evidence to the contrary, including clothing that sported the iconic “rat” emblem sported by loyal followers. According to SMH, Johnston is already a sergeant-at-arms of the gang’s Newcastle chapter. His Facebook account, which is under the name “Alphonse Fink”, shares photographs of the 22-year-old wearing Finks-labelled clothing and surrounded by club members.

A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection could not give Daily Mail Australia the precise reasoning behind his exile, but did release a statement in relation to the government’s policy on bikie gangs. “The government remains committed to protecting the Australian community from those involved with outlaw motorcycle gangs.” it read. “General visa cancellation provisions under the Migration Act 1958 allow for visa cancellation on a number of grounds including non-compliance with visa conditions, or where the presence of the visa holder in Australia is or may be a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community. “Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa will be liable for removal from Australia.” Since his deportation, Johnston has posted a photo with the caption “I love all my brothers Fink pride worldwide.” [New Zealand Herald November 19, 2017]


Four villagers in Karangasem suffer attack by jungle bees

Four local residents of Dukuh Bukit Ngadang in the Regency of Karangasem were rushed to the Public Hospital in Karangasem after being attacked by an angry swarm of Jungle Bees (Nyawan Dinding Ai). quotes a family member of Ketut Subrata – one of the four attacked by the bees, saying: “The Nyawan Dinding Ai in that location frequently attack local residents. Most attacks happen when people disturb their hives causing the bees to become very aggressive.”

The bees, considered to have toxic stings, live in hives in a cave owned by Jero Mangku Gada Sari. In the past, local residents tried unsuccessfully to vanish the bees by burning their hives only to find the insects became more ferocious and bold in launching attacks on villagers. The three women and one man sent to the hospital with a large number of stings were Ni Nyoman Suartini (47), Ni Made Subadri (43), Ni Komang Ngetis (71) and Nengah Jati (42).

The latest attack occurred on Saturday, November 11, 2017, when Ni Nyoman Suartini was gathering cassava leaves to feed her pigs in a garden owned by Jero Mangku Gada Sari in Banjar Babakan, Karangasem. While gathering leaves, the woman was attacked by a colony of bees that are twice the size of normal honeybees. Terrified, the woman screamed for help that brought forth her mother-in-law Ni Nyoman Ngetis and a neighbor Ni Made Subardi who tried to come to her assistance.

Jungle bees then besieged the two women responding to the call for help, causing all three to flee the scene with swarms of large bees in hot pursuit. Suartini ran to the home of a neighbor, I Nengah Jati, still followed by a swarm of bees that then proceeded to also attack him. The villagers eventually burnt dry leaves to create smoke that caused the angry and persistent bees to leave the man’s home. The four were brought to the Karangasem General Hospital for treatment, three were treated and released. Ni Nyoman Suartini who suffered tens of bee stings to her face, head, hands, and body was, however, warded at the hospital for further treatment. [ November 19, 2017]


Bali customs stops Chinese traveler carrying swiftlet nests, estimated value of IDR45 million

A Chinese tourist caught with 2.5 kilograms of swiftlet nests was secured at the international departures terminal of Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport on Wednesday. The nests are considered a delicacy, particularly in China, for their rarity and are made for soup, which is said to be a health booster and aphrodisiac.

Identified as CY, the Chinese tourist had five packages of the nests, an estimated value of IDR45 million (US$3,332), reports Bali Post.

The nests are under strict regulation under Indonesia’s Trade Ministry, so Customs was not going to let CY slide without any proof of being a registered swallow’s nest exporter. Customs realized there was something suspicious about CY when the traveler’s luggage went through an x-ray scanner.

Head of Customs & Excise at Nugrah Rai, Himawan Indarjono encourages people trying to bring such restricted goods out of Indonesia to make sure they have complete licensing documents from the relevant technical agencies. Luckily for the traveler, CY did not get arrested and was allowed to go on-just without his very expensive bird’s nests.

“In order to not encounter obstacles when examined, related to this case, we only secured the evidence and allowed the traveler to continue his journey,” Indarjono said. [Coconuts Bali November 24, 2017]


Ojek driver in Bali suffers critically bitten tongue when he tries to rape woman passenger

A 27-year-old Turkish woman, living as an exchange student in Bali, left a man “speechless” after he presumably tried to rape her in an empty field in Uluwatu, South Bali. As reported by, the woman, identified only be the initials NB, had hailed on online GRAB ojek motorcycle on Monday. November 13, 2017.

Traveling from Sanur to the woman’s boarding house in Jimbaran, South Kuta, the motorcycle driver made a sudden detour to isolated, empty fields near the Movenpick Hotel.

Steering his Turkish passenger into the empty field, the motorcycle driver, Edison Lumbanbatu (23), reportedly ignored protests from his female passenger that he was taking the wrong road. In the empty field, he stopped the bike and attempted to embrace the woman. NB refused the approach, causing Edison to brutally strike the woman to the ground, inflicting head and arm wounds in the process.

The man then climbed on top of the woman and attempted to kiss her. The woman struggled and fought the man, almost biting the man’s tongue off. While the driver was bleeding profusely and in pain, the woman fled the scene and sought help from local residents who sent the woman to the Kasih Ibu Hospital in Kedonganan for treatment of head and arm injuries.

Meanwhile, Edison Lumbantu was rushed to the emergency room at Bali’s Sanglah General Hospital under police guard in an effort to save his tongue said to be left dangling by a shred. Police say they have been unable to interrogate the ojek driver who is unable to talk while doctors work to treat and save his badly injured tongue. [ November 19, 2017]


Bali police form special team to hunt ATM thieves after a week of no leads

A week has past since an ATM was ripped from a surf outlet in Bali’s Jimbaran area and police are struggling to piece together any leads about whodunnit.

To push the investigation forward, police say they are forming a special team dedicated to hunting the team of about five culprits who allegedly loaded up the ATM into the back of a car. “We have created a special team to carry out the search,” Denpasar Police Chief Hadi Purnomo explained on Thursday night, as quoted by Tribun Bali.

Purnomo says police are still waiting for lab results after they had set up a crime scene by forensic investigators. As previously reported, a Maybank ATM was targeted at the Surfer’s Paradise outlet on Jl. By Pass Ngurah Rai in the early hours of Nov. 17. A security guard on duty had been beat up and tied up by the perpetrators.

Police say there weren’t many people around given the time that it happened and a reading couldn’t be taken of the perpetrator’s license plate. “There haven’t been any clues because it was quiet. In addition, the witnesses couldn’t see the license plate of the perpetrator because it reflected light and created a glare,” Kuta Police Chief Wayan Sumara said on Monday.

Sumara said the perpetrator seemed quite sophisticated and efficient with their operation. [Coconuts Bali November 24, 2017]