Experts fear a repeat of Agung devastating eruption in 1963

Volcano experts and scientists have said that Mount Agung’s recent behavior matches the buildup to the devastating 1963 eruption that left 1,600 people dead and spew enough debris into the sky – about one billion metric tonnes – to lower global temperatures a notch of 0.2-0.3 degree Celsius for about a year, according to The Jakarta Post Online on Tuesday.

“What we are seeing at the moment are small explosions, throwing out hot gases and fragments of molten rock, or ash,” said David Pyle, a volcano expert at the University of Oxford.

He said the present activity was quite similar to the start of the eruption in 1963, adding that the probability of a large eruption is high, but it may take some days or weeks to unfold.

Mark Tingay, a geologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia said the eruption has now moved on to the next, severe phase, where viscous lava can trap gases under pressure, potentially leading to an explosion.

“The volcano might at last be delivering the large eruption that has been feared for several weeks,” said David Rothery, a professor at the Open University in Britain.

But Carmen Solana, a volcanologist at the University of Portsmouth in England, was more cautious. She said the volcano could rapidly increase its activity and produce a vast eruption or it could die down.

Pyle said the worst case scenario would be a repeat of the 1963 eruption. He suggested that people living within 10-12 km radius from the volcano should be evacuated.