Bali Volcano: What to do in an Eruption

We’re in Ubud, Bali and each day there are news reports that an eruption on the nearby volcano, Mount Agung “could be hours away”.

Media outlets are spreading sensationalised news to get the clicks. Rumours are infesting on social media platforms causing people to panic. It’s hard to understand what’s actually just #fakenews.


At the time of posting, there’s none of the following:

  • SMOKE: There is no smoke due to volcanic activity. A volcanologist has informed us that “volcano’s don’t actually blow smoke”. There two areas that are causing this confusion:
    • Bush fires: it’s currently the end of ‘Dry Season’ in Bali and therefore bush fires are common at this time of year
    • Steam: due to the heat of the mountain steam is rising. Sometimes this steam (or bush fire smoke) blends with the cloud and appears bigger
  • MASS EVACUATION: Officials have evacuated over 90,000 locals that live in the immediate danger zone (9-12km). Bali’s popular holiday destinations such as Ubud and Kuta are well away from this evacuation zone, and the Indonesian tourism board have advised it’s still safe to come.
  • LAVA

Bali’s Mount Agung September 2017: Bushfire smoke and steam mixes with the clouds above Mount Agung

Bushfires on Bali's Volcano

Bali’s Mount Agung September 2017: Seasonal bush fires are burning bright on the side of the volcano


There are however, the following:

  • ALERTS: A level 4 (out of 4) alert warning an eruption is imminent
  • TREMORS: There has been a high level of seismic activity with hundreds of earthquakes being recorded daily


Mount Agung sit’s on the Pacific “Ring Of Fire”. She hasn’t hasn’t erupted for more than 50 years. Back then, she rumbled for about a month before she blew and took over 1,000 lives.

While there’s a lot of rumours and exaggeration about the current status, the threat is real. There is a potential that we may experience one of mother natures most destructive forces. We can’t predict when or if it will actually happen. But what should we do if an eruption does happen?


If a volcanic eruption occurs, follow this guide for:

Disclaimer: we are not experts. Use this as a guide but always listen to authorities. If you are near a volcano where alerts have been raised, but an eruption has not yet occurred, please check out our guide on How to Prepare for a Volcanic Eruption.


What can we expect?

Expect to be able to see, hear and feel the eruption.

They say:

    • Just before a volcano erupts, it lets out a big scream before it sends molten rock into the sky
    • Then it will roar as it blows its top off by shooting up lava, gases and rocks into the air and down the volcano
    • Then an umbrella of ash cloud billows out, shadowing everything below into the night
    • Other knock on effects like landslides and tsunami’s may follow


How to Respond to a Volcanic Eruption

Stay calm

Be calm and don’t panic.

I know, easier said than done, but seriously – freaking out isn’t going to help the situation. Focus on what is in your control to make the right decisions to keep yourself, and those in your care, safe.


Take Shelter or Evacuate

Depending on your proximity to the Mount Agung volcano, you may not have a choice but to leave. Check in with local authorities and follow their instructions to relocate to an evacuation centre or safer location. It’s also important to evacuate the area asap. If you wait to long, you’ll have to deal with ash fall, which can damage your car’s engine and make it more difficult to leave.

Airports may be closed because any ash in the atmosphere means it becomes a no-fly zone. Be patient and consider alternative options such as land or sea transport to another airport, if possible.


Check the Forecast

While you may be in a “safe zone” away from lava and rocks, the danger after an eruption comes from the ash cloud which can bring poisonous gases and particles that can cause health problems.

Check the weather forecast for insights on where the worst of the ash may head.

If there is ash fall in your area and you have lung or heart problems, or respiratory sensitivity, you might consider evacuation.


Go Inside

If you are in a region where there is ash fall after an eruption, the best place for you and your pets is to be is inside. Ash fall may keep you housebound for hours or even days.


If you are Outside

  • Immediately seek cover
  • Keep away from low-lying areas because lava, mudflows & ash are more likely to channel down there
  • Wear a mask
  • Keep your skin covered (wear a poncho or full-length clothing)
  • Wear glasses or goggles
  • Avoid wearing contact lenses (ash particles can scratch the eyes)


Protect your Possessions

If you are able to:

  • Seal buildings: Close all windows, doors & ventilation points. Place damp towels at thresholds
  • Turn off fans, heating & air conditioning systems 
  • Cover up vehicles. Motors can be easily damaged from the gritty ash
  • Seal up electrical items, cameras, computers
  • Avoid driving. Ash can cause roads to be slippery, clog engines & stall vehicles.

How to Recover after a Volcanic Eruption

Monitor your Health

The ash in the air may impact your health, especially if you already have respiratory issues. Below are symptoms that may occur during ash fall. Stay indoors and when possible, seek medical assistance.

  • Your eyes might get irritated, itchy, or bloodshot
  • Ash particles can scratch the eyes – if you wear contacts, take them out
  • You might cough, have a runny nose, a sore throat
  • Asthmatics might have shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Avoid heavy exertion and deep breathing, as this might lead to increased inhalation of ash into the lungs



When the ash has settled, clean away the ash. Take care as ash can be abrasive and wear a mask.

  • Dampen down any ash or dust with water first to stop it billowing
  • After removing the ash, clean the roof and gutter with water to prevent corrosion.


Help Out

Look after each other. If you’re in the position to do so, help your neighbours and local animals; offer them shelter, food and clean water. Find out if support groups need donations of food, blankets or money to help those in a less fortunate situation.


For further information on ash fall, there is an awesome detailed guide from the New Zealand Government here.

By Amy, September 25, 2017 I was born in New Zealand and moved to Melbourne, Australia in my early 20s. There I met my partner Steve. 10 years later, we decided to change our lifestyle and move to Southeast Asia, so here we are!


I was born in New Zealand and moved to Melbourne, Australia in my early 20s. There I met my partner Steve. 10 years later, we decided to change our lifestyle and move to Southeast Asia, so here we are!

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