10/31/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Lapindo Brantas "responsible" for mud flow

by Mathias Hariyadi
Dozens of world-renowned geologists agree that the eruption of boiling mud in Porong is the result of a botched borehole excavation. For years, there have been disputes about who should pay damages and compensate the thousands of displaced persons.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Lapindo Brantas Inc. is responsible for the eruption of boiling mud in Indonesia that has flooded entire villages, cut off roads and railways, and forced thousands of people to leave their homes and jobs. Experts gathered in South Africa to discuss the problem have concluded that the disaster is the consequence of the digging of a borehole to reach gas deposits, without taking basic precautions.

The boiling mud has issued uninterruptedly since May of 2006, from the borehole in Porong in the district of Sidoarjo in eastern Java, defying any attempt to close the hole and encroaching on a wider and wider area.

Lapindo Brantas, which dug the borehole, has always said that the cause was an earthquake in Yogyakarta, central Java, 280 kilometers away. This hypothesis has been supported by the government and various political groups.

The conference, attended by 90 geologists of international fame, included supporters of the earthquake hypothesis, like professor Adriano Mazzini of the University of Oslo, and Indonesian geologists Nurrochmat Sawolo and Bambang Istandi. But professor Mark Tingay of Curtin University in Perth, professor Richard Davies, and professors Susila Lusiaga and Rudi Rubiandini of the Bandung Institute of Technology maintain that the earthquake had nothing to do with the eruption of mud.

At the end, those present voted: about half of them agreed with Davies' ideas, and only three with those of Mazzini.

Lapindo, which is directed by Indonesian minister of social affairs Aburizal Bakrie, a close friend of vice president Jusuf Kalla and one of the richest men in the country, has not paid any damages to the thousands of people who have been impacted, and recently has expressed the intention of calling off efforts to stop the mud, because of their high cost.

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