The exodus from a rumbling volcano on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali is nearing 100,000 people as hundreds of tremors from the mountain are recorded.
The National Disaster Mitigation Agency said on Wednesday that more than 96,000 people have fled the area around the Mount Agung volcano.
It says a monitoring centre recorded more than 800 earthquakes so far on Wednesday and thin smoke has been observed rising 50m above the crater.
Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nguroho said the chances of an eruption are “quite big,” although experts can’t predict when with certainty.
Meanwhile authorities have prepared 10 airports to handle diverted flights if the volcano erupts.
The transportation ministry said it had also prepared 100 buses to move tourists to airports on the neighbouring islands of Java and Lombok in the event of an eruption.
Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport was operating normally on Wednesday but an eruption could throw travel plans into chaos.
Immigration leniency will be given to foreigners who overstay due to their flights being disrupted, ministry spokesman Baitul Ihwan said.
More than 82,000 people have fled their homes near the volcano and sought refuge in government buildings, sports halls and in tents on open fields, as well as with relatives.
The 3031m Mount Agung last erupted for almost a year between 1963 and 1964, killing about 1200 people.
Indonesia sits on the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, an area known for frequent seismic upheavals and volcanic eruptions. The country is home to about 130 active volcanoes.