Bali: Some travel insurers are refusing to provide cover for any volcano-related travel disruptions if insurance policies are taken out after Mount Agung in Bali erupted on Tuesday, saying it would no longer be an “unforseen event”.
Bali’s international Airport has not been affected by the minor eruption of steam and ash from the volcano, which is about 75 kilometres away, and Virgin Australia and Jetstar both said their flights to and from Bali were operating as normal.
The Indonesian government has maintained the current volcano warning alert, a level three issued on October 29.
However at least two travel insurers – Travel Insurance Direct and 1Cover Travel Insurance – have issued cover cut-offs for any claims that might arise from the volcano once the eruption became a “known event”
The Australian Government has updated its Smartraveller advice saying there is the potential for ash fall to disrupt flights if volcanic activity escalates.
“Individual airlines make their own decisions about flight operations,” it says. “Contact your airline or tour operator directly for up-to-date information.”
Travel Insurance Direct said it was now issuing a cover cut-off for claims arising from “this known event”.
“For policies purchased after 8:05pm (AEDT) on Tuesday 21 November 2017, cover is not available for claims arising from any volcanic activity, including any new ash cloud events, as such events are no longer unforeseen,” it says on its website.
Gede Epo from Nawa Kerti village five kilometres from Mount Agung summit shows ash he picked from the roof. Photo: Amilia Rosa
Travel Insurance Direct said cover was available for policies purchased before this when there was no option but to change travel plans.
“Where your trip has not yet begun, cover is available for the lesser of rearrangement or cancellation costs.”
1Cover Travel Insurance said Mount Agung was excluded from travel insurance policies purchased after midday (AEST) on November 22.
“For policies purchased after midday (AEST) on 22 November 2017 cover is not available for claims arising from any volcanic activity, including travel service disruptions due to ash cloud, as such events were not considered unforeseen at the time of purchase,” it said on its website.
Travel insurance expert Bessie Hassan said there may be confusion around travel insurance as cover restrictions had been previously imposed, but were then lifted by a few brands.
The volcano alert level for Mount Agung – Bali’s largest and most sacred mountain – was downgraded to three on October 29 after 38 days on the highest possible level.
“Some insurers removed their cover bans between 30th October and 6th November so anyone who has taken out a policy since then should be eligible for cover,” said Ms Hassan, a travel insurance expert at finder.com.au.
“But other insurers haven’t lifted their restrictions at all so cover for the volcano likely won’t be provided if the policy was taken out within the last month or so.”
Tuesday’s “phreatic eruption” sent a dark grey plume up to one kilometre into the sky just after 5pm local time.
A phreatic eruption is a steam-driven explosion that occurs when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma (molten rock), lava, hot rocks or new volcanic deposits.
The volcano stopped emitting ash which coated leaves in Pidpid village in Abang subdistrict about six kilometres from Mount Agung at about 9pm Tuesday night.
“We were on alert all night until morning,” said volcanologist Gede Suantika from the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation. “We thought it would continue until this morning, but it didn’t. It’s just white steam now.”
Mr Gede said the alert status remained at three. The existing danger zone within a radius of between 7.5 kilometres around the summit also remained unchanged.
“We thought last night the plume would get higher and higher but that didn’t happen.”
Mr Gede said the amplitude of tremors was slowing down Wednesday morning.
“It could be that this is just a lonely blast that was caused by water seeping into the hot rocks at the summit, which doesn’t herald any additional eruptions,” volcanologist Erik Klemetti wrote in his science blog Rocky Planet.
“However many volcanoes start periods of more eruptions that continue new (juvenile) magma with phreatic blasts as the upper parts of the volcano system heats up.”
Mount Agung last erupted in 1963. More than 1500 people were killed and 1700 houses destroyed. Eruptions lasted for a year.
Mount Agung is one of nearly 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia, an archipelago vulnerable to seismic upheaval because of its location on the “Ring of Fire”, a horse-shoe shaped belt of tectonic plate boundaries that fringes the Pacific basin.