While my column is normally about social media – that is, online sites and tools, it’s easy to forget that the original social media was people. In the flesh, making contact, helping each other out. Talking. Supporting. So this month, I want to re-focus attention on Bali’s simmering volcano and how it is affecting, and may affect, people on the island.
If you are holidaying in Bali, staying long term or permanently, hopefully you’ve heard about Mount Agung. I really hope this isn’t the first you’re hearing about our active volcano, which awoke last year from a 50-year sleep. Sadly, for many tourists, it just might be, as the volcano has largely fallen out of the news.
Bali’s Mount Agung is a Class-5 explosive-type volcano that is currently at Level 3 (Siaga — or, Standby). [The scale ranges from 1 to 5, with 4 meaning ‘imminent eruption’ and 5 meaning ‘actively erupting.’] Agung last erupted over 50 years ago, and blanketed Bali with ash on and off for over a year. In 2017, Mt Agung spent considerable time on Level 4 and erupted a number of times, causing the airport to close and flights to be canceled on several occasions.
The greatest issue that most areas of Bali face during an eruption is the fall of volcanic ash. Ash can close the airport – if the winds blow it south from the volcano or it gets into flight paths — and force the cancellation and delay of flights.
Experts at the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (www.ivhhn.org) advise that short-term exposure to volcanic ash is unlikely to cause any significant or lasting health problems in healthy adults.
However, you should bring N95 particle masks [the IVHHN site mentioned above has good information about masks] with you to Bali and use them when ash is present, as much for comfort as for safety. (Or purchase some while you’re here. ACE Hardware and all Bali Buda stores carry them.) Ash causes nose and throat irritation, as it contains minute silica and rock particles. If you have young children, make sure you have masks that will fit their smaller faces. Children are more affected by ash than adults and can sometimes develop asthmatic symptoms. Ash can irritate eyes, so you should also use eye protection, such as goggles or ski masks. If you have any prior health conditions, such as asthma or heart disease, experts advise using a mask at all times and remaining indoors when ash is present. The gases released by the volcano may also affect you, causing sore or burning throats, and cold or flu-like symptoms.
You should check with your travel insurance company to make sure you will be covered if Mount Agung has another serious eruption. Many insurers are excluding any disruptions specifically caused by the volcano from their coverage. Basically, travel insurance is designed to cover you for unknown and unforeseeable things happening. Mount Agung erupting is now a known event, in that it is expected to erupt, or keep erupting, in the future.
According to Compare Travel Insurance, “…most insurers [are] maintaining their coverage exclusions for the volcano since late November 2017. This means that if you purchased a policy [for a Bali trip] after 21-22 November 2017, most insurers will not cover you for cancellations, delays or other claims related to Mount Agung.”
Some insurance companies offer a separate ‘Volcano Cover’ or natural disaster cover at an extra cost. I would advise checking now to see if you are covered, so you don’t wind up paying out of pocket for additional hotel, meal and travel expenses, in case your flight is delayed or cancelled. Last year, one Australian journalist spent over $5,000 for herself and her family to stay an extra week in Bali and return home when flights resumed. Of course, if you didn’t get travel insurance for this trip, now would be a really good time to purchase a policy. And extra volcano cover.
Another tip for Bali travelers from Compare Travel Insurance on what to do if there is flight disruption due to the volcano: “Make calling the airport or your airline a last resort, as call centers tend to be at maximum capacity at times like this. Instead, make sure that your email and mobile contact information on your booking is up-to-date and stay tuned to your airline’s website and social media accounts.”
The Balinese government is currently maintaining refugee camps for local farmers whose fields and villages are too close to the mountain. There is currently a four-kilometer exclusion zone around the volcano. About 2,000 Balinese refugees are being housed in camps in 35 locations in the area, safely outside the zone. The government must feed and house all these people, on an ongoing basis. The refugees are unlikely to be able to return to their homes and farms anytime soon. If you would like to help, and give something back to Bali after your time here, donations of food, bedding, clothing, games, toys and other supplies are urgently needed.
Here is a short list of who is helping those most affected by the volcano.
You can help by donating to Mt Agung Relief, a group of local NGOs working together to support refugees: www.facebook.com/MtAgungRelief.
Another group working to help refugees is Agung Siaga Bali. You can see their work and donate at: www.facebook.com/agungsiaga.ubud/.
Yayasan Bumi Sehat, a maternal and child health center, in Nyuh Kuning, near Ubud, accepts donations to take to the camps. Their website is: www.bumisehatfoundation.org.
Kopernik, a local NGO that works to reduce poverty by developing ‘real-world’ solutions faced by people in poverty and remote communities, is developing a locally made mask that will protect wearers against volcanic ash and other respiratory hazards. This will both reduce the cost of obtaining masks and ensure a reliable supply when they are needed. You can support this project at: kopernik.info/donate/protecting-respiratory-health-locally-produced-respiratory-masks.
One of my fellow Bali Advertiser columnists, Cat Wheeler, wrote an article last year about the refugee dilemma and the need for donations. You can find her piece archived here: www.baliadvertiser.biz/volcano-relief-whos-can-help/.
So, in this era of social media, let’s not forget that behind social media are very human people.
SOCIAL MEDIA BYTES
Email Liz at LizinBali@gmail.com
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