Much of the latest information on Bali's volatile Mount Agung is coming the long way around — from a Kiwi volcanologist watching an Indonesian mountain from Pittsburgh, US.
Dr Janine Krippner is working through the night to read, analyse and disseminate the latest information from Bali.
Dr Krippner's tips for Bali visitors:
- Listen to the official sources for information
- Know what the hazards are
- Bring a mask and goggles with you (they'll be difficult to source in Bali)
- Bring long-sleeved shirts and pants
- Have a supply of bottled water and food with you
- Bring a torch and batteries
- Stay out of the hazard zones
She reads tweets from volcano experts, monitors an online seismogram, interprets confusing graphs, and scours online sources for anything relevant.
She began watching the volcano closely at the start of this crisis, on September 22, when Indonesian authorities declared a Level IV alert for Mt Agung and ordered major evacuations. She could not find the information she needed.
"I figured people out there must be really struggling. I started getting comments out there from people saying they didn't know where to get information," she said.
"You have to use Google Translate to translate the information from Indonesian, and there are key words that are missed out in that and make it sound very different from what the situation is.
"So, using volcanology education and experience I started translating those, making sure the messages from officials are getting across to the people in Bali or the people who are about to go to Bali, who really needed it."
Indonesia's volcanologists and disaster management experts are doing a superb job, but their priority is getting information to locals in the volcano's immediate vicinity.
It takes time before updates get out to English speakers, like the 50,000 Australians who are in Bali on any given day.
Dr Krippner speeds up the process, releasing information and analysis, mostly on Twitter. She's launched hundreds of tweets and picked up a couple of thousand new followers.
Most tourists are well away from the evacuation zone, but Dr Krippner said they would face other problems in case of eruption.
She said one of the key messages for tourists was: be prepared. Bringing eye protection and masks to the island is crucial, even for people staying in destinations like Kuta, which are a long way from Mt Agung.
Finding protective masks or goggles is difficult in Bali.
"I would be prepared for a potential ashfall down there. It can be irritable to eyes," Dr Krippner said.
"I've had volcanic ash in my eye, I can tell you it can be irritable to have a sharp bit of rock in your eye.
"It can be irritable to your skin and it can be irritable to your airways as well, because you're breathing in pulverised rock."
'Hypertension' in evacuation camps
Dr Krippner said it was difficult to predict when, or even if, Mt Agung would erupt.
The eruption is determined by the magma system beneath the volcano, which she said was incredibly complex.
"Way below the surface there's a lot of gas in the magma, but until you start getting nearer and nearer the surface that gas can't come out because there's so much rock over the top of it," she says.
"If you think of a magma system, not just a big balloon of magma sitting down there, it'll be some kind of weird system of magma pushing through this crack and this rock."
"There are so many aspects of this magma that could be constantly changing. Some of the things that can change the way it behaves are the amount of crystals in it, the amount of gas in it, how thick it is — the viscosity."
All this means that Indonesian authorities cannot allow any of the approximately 150,000 evacuees from the mountain to return home.
About 10,000 of those people are sick, said I Gede Wastika — a spokesman for the Disaster Mitigation Agency in Bali.
"Generally living in evacuation camps, no matter how good the condition of the camps are, the people living there will certainly not feel comfortable," he said.
"They've been living there since the 22nd until today, it's been a while, of course they will suffer from boredom, lack of things to do, there's no certainty whether Mount Agung [is] going to erupt or not.
"And they live in a place that will be impacted by the eruption, of course there is fatigue and stress.
"This prolonged stress causes people to have hypertension, they've got body aches, they've got cold; because living in camps, the condition is cold and uncomfortable, they sleep on the ground."