New Indonesia Calamity: A Man-Made Mud Bath
KEDUNGBENDO, Indonesia, Oct. 5 — It started as a natural gas well. It has become geysers of mud and water, and in a country plagued by earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis another calamity in the making, though this one is largely man-made.
Eight villages are completely or partly submerged, with homes and more than 20 factories buried to the rooftops. Some 13,000 people have been evacuated. The four-lane highway west of here has been cut in two, as has the rail line, dealing a serious blow to the economy of this region in East Java, an area vital to the country’s economy. The muck has already inundated an area covering one and a half square miles.
And it shows no signs of stopping.
The mud is rising by the hour, and now spewing forth at the rate of about 170,000 cubic yards a day, or about enough to cover Central Park.
Foreign companies, environmental groups and political observers are now watching closely to see whether the government will hold the company that drilled the well accountable for the costs of the cleanup, which could easily reach $1 billion.