10/03/2006, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Mud flow: government sanctions firm responsible for disaster

Indonesia's Manpower Minister asked Lapindo Brantas to find work for more than 3,000 people who have lost their jobs as a consequence of the hot mud flow from its oil drilling well. Eight villages and several industrial areas have been submerged, making them uninhabitable.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia's Manpower and Transmigration Minister has asked Lapindo Brantas to find work for more than 3,000 people left jobless by the hot mud flowing from the company's gas drilling site in Porong, Sidoarjo regency, East Java province.

Yesterday, Minister Erman Suoarno said: "In line with the conclusion of the limited cabinet meeting on 27 September, Lapindo has to be responsible for the fate of the 3,000 employees of 15 companies, which have stopped their operations because of the mudflow, which has submerged not only housing areas but also many factories."

Since 29 May, boiling mud has been gushing out of a fault created in the drilling well of the firm Lapindo Brantas in Porong. The mud comes from a depth of around 6km at a rate of around 50,000 cubic metres per day. It has already flooded eight villages – declared uninhabitable by Jakarta – engulfing at least 1,810 homes, 18 schools, 20 factories, paddy fields and 12 mosques, and forcing the evacuation of 10,000 people.

The minister said he hoped that Lapindo "reemploys all the workers at its units in other areas to show its commitment to solving all the problems triggered by the mudflow." Further, Erman Suoarno asked the firm to pay Muslim workers one month's salary as a bonus to allow them to celebrate the Idul Fitri holiday (end of the month of Ramadan). He said: "The annual bonus stipulated by a 1994 ministerial decree is compulsory and is part of management's corporate social responsibility to improve the social welfare of its workers." According to the government directive, Lapido should pay the bonus at least seven days before the feast, which falls this year on 24 October, to allow workers time to return to their villages of origin.

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