Mud barriers collapse, hundreds flee in panic
Indra Harsaputra, The Jakarta Post, Sidoarjo
[Photo: Jakarta Post
- MUD ACCIDENT: A trailer truck carrying food is trapped in mud and overturns Friday in Sidoarjo, East Java. Spewing mud breached an embankment on Thursday night, causing panic and further damage there. (JP/Indra Harsaputra)]
An embankment built to contain the hot mud that has been flowing from an oil drilling well in Porong, Sidoarjo regency, East Java, has collapsed, forcing hundreds of residents to flee in panic.
The collapsed embankment has caused mud to flow into the area, paralyzing the nearby railway track and road transportation.
Mudflow Mitigation Agency's coordinating team head Soenarso said Friday the embankment collapsed at 10 p.m. on Thursday at Ketapang Keres village in Tanggulangin district, Sidoarjo.
"We've been able to repair the damage of the nine-meter embankment, but we will work hard to exhaust water and mud, which has submerged railway tracks and the main road with 20 to 80 centimeters of mud," Sonarso said.
On Thursday night, mud levels had reportedly reached one meter.
Vehicles were trapped when a truck transporting instant food packages overturned in the flow of the water.
Soenarso said the collapse was caused by the sinking level of land surface around the main embankment near the well.
He said the collapse had forced water and mud to be unable to flow into the Porong river and that it was instead flowing toward nearby residential sites outside affected areas.
"The embankment was strong enough to contain the water so that it collapsed," Soenarso said.
"The condition was worsened by the heavy rain and opposition from local people to a plan for the construction of an addition embankment.
"I've reminded the residents about the danger of the hot mud flow, but they insist not to move on grounds they have not received compensation from Lapindo Brantas Inc."
Lapindo Brantas is the company responsible for the flow of mud from its oil drilling activities.
The Thursday's embankment collapse disrupted Jalan Raya Porong and the Surabaya-Malang and Surabaya-Banyuwangi railway traffic.
Police were forced to detour land transportation to the Krian-Mojosari route, while seven railway schedules were delayed.
The deputy head of Gubeng railway station in Surabaya, Budi Setiono, said delays across seven routes had caused the state railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia to suffer losses amounting to Rp 150 million (US$16,600).
All sold tickets were refunded, Budi said.
Soenarso said at least 135 people were forced to evacuate.
"The affected residents will get assistance in the form of health services and food," he said.
But East Java Governor Imam Utomo said Friday residents affected by the Thursday's collapse would not get compensation or be relocated as the incident did not belong to any extraordinary occurrence.
"The residents can still return to their houses after the mud and water subside," he said.
Agnes Tuti Rumiati, head of the community research agency of the Surabaya November 10 Technology Institute, said if the mud flow could not be fully handled, East Java province would suffer losses amounting to an estimated Rp 34 trillion.
"The losses are calculated based on the multiplier effect, ranging from the losses of jobs, closures of factories and disruption of traffic and trade," she said.