KARANGASEM, Indonesia (AP) — Dozens prayed at a revered Hindu temple on the slopes of Bali’s menacing Mount Agung volcano on Thursday, hoping the gods will restore it to calm.
Worshippers including Bali’s governor, Made Mangkupastika, made offerings and recited prayers at the temple inside a zone declared off-limits by disaster officials.
Warnings that the volcano on the Indonesian tourist island could erupt anytime have caused 140,000 people to flee to safer areas.
“Despite Mount Agung being on the highest level of alert, this ceremony must be done,” said Jro Mangku Jana, a Hindu priest.
“We pray for our safety and peace. Be thankful to God for all of his blessings to all of us,” he said.
Prayers were also performed in other parts of the island by Hindus, Muslims and Christians, according to Bali’s religious leader, Gusti Ngurah Sudiana.
Bali is the only predominantly Hindu province in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said tremors from the volcano, which indicate rising magma, have remained at high levels since Agung’s alert status was raised to the highest on Sept. 22.
He said a fracture has opened inside the volcano’s crater and white smoke was spewing with weak pressure. An exclusion zone around the mountain extends as far as 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) from the crater in places.
Agung, about 70 kilometers (45 miles) to the northeast of the tourist hotspot of Kuta, is among more than 120 active volcanoes in Indonesia.
Another volcano, Mount Sinabung on Sumatra, has been erupting sporadically since 2010, sometimes blasting volcanic ash several kilometers (miles) into the air and forcing more than 30,000 to evacuate their villages.
Indonesia is located on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanoes and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin, and is prone to seismic upheaval.