Aussies quizzed over volcano climb
TWO Australian tourists have been warned of their reckless behaviour after trying to climb to the summit of Bali's erupting Mt Agung volcano in the early hours.
The climb was in contravention of an 8-10km exclusion zone around the volcano, which remains on the highest alert level.
The two men, Ricky Tonacia, 34 and Jack Dennard, 26, were taken to Selat police station, near the exclusion zone after being intercepted by member of a volcano monitoring team.
The men, who both have pictures of themselves in Fire and Rescue NSW uniforms on their Facebook sites, told police their intention had been to see the top of the volcano and they had no idea it was not safe. This was despite signs and warnings around Bali, including a sign at the spot where they had been dropped off by their guide.
At 1am on Thursday they were dropped off at Pasar Agung Temple and had asked the driver to come back at 10am to collect them.
Karangasem Police chief, Wayan Gede Ardana, said the two men had only got halfway up when they were forced back by bad weather and the strong sulphur.
He said the two men had been interrogated by police and warned not to do anything like it again.
"We only interrogate them and warn them to not do the same thing again," police chief Ardana said.
Gede Pawana, chairman of Pasebaya, a community comprising leaders of 28 villages dedicated to the Mt Agung mitigation effort, said the two men claimed no knowledge of the danger of trying to climb the volcano.
"They said that they do not get any explanation from hotel. The hotel said that Mount Agung is safe. So, they just went," Mr Pawana said.
"They failed to reach the summit. On the half way mark, they decided to go back because of the bad weather. They cannot see anything because of the fog and the smell of sulphur is too strong," he said.
The men had arrived back from the mountain to a gate, marking the start of the exclusion zone, at 10am.
They had earlier been dropped off at an area, 1.5km from the Pasar Agung Temple, which had been set up to stop people from going any further. The temple is one of the starting points for climbing Mt Agung, which is about 3km away. But since November the area has been off limits to villagers and tourists due to the exclusion zone and the dangers posed by the unpredictable volcano.
"We are questioning the guide. The guide has to be able to give explanation to the guests about the current situation. The guide must explain the truth that Mt Agung is not safe for now,"
"They have left the police station now. The guide made a statement to not repeat what he has done again.
"We hope tourism industry, hotels and guide, will give a detailed explanation to tourists about the current situation of Mt Agung. Don't say that all Bali area is safe. They could campaign Bali is safe, but for the area outside 8 to 10km from the crater," Mr Pawana said.
"I just worry that more tourists will come and climb Mt Agung as they think it is safe to do so. Can you imagine if the volcano erupts when they are there? They will become a victim and then Bali tourism will be destroyed because of that incident," he said.