'Matter of hours' before Bali volcano erupts, says Indonesian government

The sun sets behind Mount Agung yesterday

Waskita Sutadewa, spokesman for the disaster mitigation agency in Bali, said people have scattered to all corners of the island and some have crossed to the neighbouring island of Lombok.

More than 75,000 people were evacuated over the past few days as Agung has experienced hundreds of internal volcanic earthquakes.

Mount Agung could erupt imminently officials have warnedWhen is Mount Agung expected to erupt?

Data showed that Mount Agung had 844 volcanic earthquakes on Monday and around 400 by midday on Tuesday, Devy Kamil Syahbana, a seismologist from Indonesia's centre for volcanology and geological hazard mitigation, said.

Rising tremors indicate that magma inside the volcano was getting closer to the surface, said Sutopo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

The Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), sent in an emergency rescue team to patrol evacuated areas, bringing food and water to birds, dogs, cats, cows, and whatever other abandoned animals they could find.

Balinese residents, worldwide NGOs and the central government have begun organising aid.

"We have already sold our cattle, because we thought it was better than leaving them there for nothing", he said.

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Indonesia's national disaster agency has dispatched 640,000 face masks, 12,500 mattresses, 8,400 blankets, 50 tents, and has a budget of $75,000 for assistance.

Mount Agung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia - an archipelago prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes as it sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire".

The central government has set aside a relief fund of almost $150 million in case of an eruption.

Authorities had previously warned that people of region and tourists should stay at least 12 kilometers away from volcano, forbid tourist attractions and camping.

Seismic activity from the volcano has escalated dramatically in the past two weeks but officials say there is no reason for tourists to panic and the island famous for its surfing, beaches and elegant Hindu culture is still safe to visit.

Mount Agung's eruptions in 1963 were among the most powerful and devastating last century in Indonesia, a country with more than 120 active volcanoes.

Several countries including Britain, Australia and Singapore have issued travel advisories for their citizens, warning of possible flight disruptions and evacuations.

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