75,000 flee homes in Bali as Mount Agung volcano rumbles

Indonesia President Joko Widodo (C) talks with children as he visits a temporary shelter for people who live near Mount Agung, a volcano on the highest alert level, on the resort island of Bali, in Karangasem, Indonesia on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 26 September 2017
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75,000 flee homes in Bali as Mount Agung volcano rumbles

KARANGASEM, Indonesia: Vehicles laden with food, facemasks and bedding have been sent to help more than 75,000 people who have fled a volcano on the tourist island of Bali, as the Indonesian president flew in to visit crowded aid centers.
Mount Agung, 75 km from the resort hub of Kuta, has been rumbling since August and threatening to erupt for the first time since 1963 — a potential blow to the country’s lucrative tourism industry.
Increasingly frequent tremors show that the molten magma is still rising toward the surface, with the mountain entering a “critical phase,” said the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (NDMA).
It said the number fleeing their homes had increased as fears grow that the mountain could blow.
“The local mitigation agency reported that until 12 p.m. Tuesday, the number has reached 75,673 people, spread across 377 evacuation centers in nine districts,” said agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.
Around 62,000 people lived in the danger zone before the evacuations, according to the agency, but residents just outside the area have also left as a precaution.
“The number is expected to continue to rise,” Nugroho said.
The Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation said there has been an increase in volcanic tremors, with a total of 564 recorded Monday.

Evacuees have packed into temporary shelters or moved in with relatives. Some 2,000 cows have also been evacuated from the flanks of the volcano.
President Joko Widodo was due to visit crammed evacuation centers in Bali on Tuesday afternoon.
Balinese residents, international NGOs and the central government have begun organizing aid.
Vehicles loaded with noodles, mineral water and blankets have been sent to the evacuation centers, while residents around the island have been collecting donations.
Bali’s “sister village” program and tradition of communal assistance means evacuees have been able to stay in villages outside the danger zone.
I Ketut Subandi, head of logistics at the village of Tana Ampo, said basic food items like rice, instant noodles, cooking oil and water were most needed.
“This morning we were worried because we had limited rice supply, but now we have received more rice stocks from donors,” Subandi said.
NDMA has sent 640,000 face masks, 12,500 mattresses, 8,400 blankets and 50 tents. The central government has a relief fund totalling nearly $150 million to meet the cost of natural disasters, which could be tapped in case of an eruption.
Officials announced the highest possible alert level on Friday due to the increasing volcanic activity and warned people to stay at least nine kilometers away from the crater.
Operators have canceled trekking tours on the mountain but officials have otherwise been at pains to assure tourists the island is safe.
The airport in Bali’s capital Denpasar, through which millions of foreign tourists pass every year, has not been affected, but several countries including Australia and Singapore have issued a travel advisory.
Flights to and from the island have not been interrupted but airlines are watching the situation closely.
Virgin Australia said it would be making an extra fuel stop in Darwin for some of its flights between Australia and Bali in case it is forced to turn back.
Singapore Airlines said customers traveling between Sept. 23 and Oct. 2 could rebook flights or ask for a refund.
Mount Agung is one of more than 120 active volcanoes extending the length of Indonesia, which straddles the Pacific Ring of Fire.
It last erupted in 1963, killing nearly 1,600 people and sending ash as far as the capital Jakarta.


US intelligence chief is tough on Russia, at odds with Trump

Updated 5 min 1 sec ago
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US intelligence chief is tough on Russia, at odds with Trump

  • Dan Coats’ drumbeat of criticism against Russia is clashing loudly with President Donald Trump’s pro-Kremlin remarks
  • Trump has been determined to forge closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin

ASPEN, Colo: National Intelligence Director Dan Coats’ drumbeat of criticism against Russia is clashing loudly with President Donald Trump’s pro-Kremlin remarks, leaving the soft-spoken spy chief in an uncomfortable — and perhaps perilous — place in the administration.
Trump’s remarks after Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting, where he appeared to deny the longtime US foe was still targeting American elections, are just the latest in a growing list of statements that conflict with Coats’. His job is to share the work of the 17 intelligence agencies he oversees with the president.
Coats, who will be speaking Thursday at a national security conference in Aspen, Colorado, is a former Republican lawmaker. He was banned from traveling to Russia in 2014 for calling out its annexation of Crimea, and he has continued to raise the alarm on Russia since his appointment by Trump as intelligence chief in March 2017.
That’s left Coats in a tight spot. Trump has been determined to forge closer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, culminating in this week’s extraordinary summit in Helsinki. The disconnect with Coats was laid bare after Trump sparked outrage back home by giving credence to Russia’s denial of interference in the 2016 US election as he stood alongside Putin.
Back in Washington, Coats was quick to issue a statement Monday to rebut that position. He restated the US intelligence assessment about Russian meddling and “their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy.”
Former intelligence officials say Coats is just speaking truth to power, a mantra often used in describing the intelligence agencies’ historical relationship with any president. But in the Trump administration, Coats could be walking into a minefield, given the president’s track record of firing officials who don’t toe his line.
Michael Morell, former deputy and acting director of the CIA, said Coats and other national security officials in the Trump administration are just doing their jobs, and the president undermines them and the institutions they lead when he makes “inaccurate statements.”
“By doing this, the president is undermining our national security,” Morell said.
Trump did walk back his post-Putin summit comments on Tuesday, saying he’d misspoken when he said he saw no reason why it was Russia that had interfered in the 2016 election. He also said he accepted the intelligence agencies’ conclusion of Russian meddling. But he added, “It could be other people also. A lot of people out there.”
The president’s mixed messaging grew even more confusing Wednesday. He was asked if Russia was still targeting the US and answered “no” — a statement that Morell contended was “flat-out wrong” because the Russians never stopped trying to interfere in the US democracy.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said later that Trump does believe that Russia may try to target US elections again and the “threat still exists.”
When asked Wednesday in a CBS News interview whether Trump agrees with Coats that the Russian threat is ongoing, the president said he did.
“Well, I accept. I mean, he’s an expert. This is what he does. He’s been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Dan Coats, and if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you though, it better not be. It better not be,” Trump said.
Trump has had a tense relationship with US intelligence agencies since before he was elected, largely because of their conclusion that Putin ordered “an influence campaign” in 2016 aimed at helping the Trump campaign and harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Earlier in the administration, Coats’ voice was drowned out by the more outspoken Mike Pompeo, who was CIA director before Trump tapped him as secretary of state. Now with Pompeo heading the State Department, Coats has been thrust into the limelight as the voice of the intelligence community. In Aspen on Thursday, he’s expected to outline the cyberthreats the US faces from Russia as well as other countries, such as China, North Korea and Iran.
Coats, 75, has been immersed in Washington politics for years. He served in the House in the 1980s and the Senate in the 1990s and 2010s and was the US ambassador to Germany from 2001 to 2005. In 2014, Coats, who was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, denounced Russia’s interference in eastern Ukraine and was banned from Russia.
Coats blew it off: “Our summer vacation in Siberia is a no-go,” he joked.
Still, Coats is not known as being flippant. He’s prided himself as being a steady voice, but it’s clear he is no fan of Russia.
In comments at a Washington think tank last week, he said, “The Russian bear ... is out of the cave, hungry and clawing for more territory, more influence and using the same tactics we saw in the Cold War and more.”
He said the “more” is cyberthreats that are targeting US government and businesses in the energy, nuclear, water, aviation and critical-manufacturing sectors. He said that while there had not been the scale of electoral interference detected in 2016, “we fully realize that we are just one click on a keyboard away from a similar situation repeating itself.”
Those tough remarks came just days before the Trump-Putin summit — and that was not the first time Coats has made statements starkly at odds with his boss.
On June 8, when Trump suggested at a summit in Canada that Russia should be asked to rejoin the G-7 organization of industrialized nations, Coats was making a speech in Normandy, France. There, Coats offered a laundry list of what he said were recent malign activities by Moscow. Those included political hacking in France, Germany and Norway, a damaging cyberassault on Ukraine, and Russian agents’ alleged attempt to kill two people in Britain with a nerve agent.
“These Russian actions are purposeful and premeditated and they represent an all-out assault, by (Russian President) Vladimir Putin, on the rule of law, Western ideals and democratic norms,” he said.