Giant Java Mud Flow

The mudflow in the eastern part of Java Island, Indonesia, has got to be one of the strangest natural disasters ever recorded. The mudflow that occurred in 2006 was most likely a result of earthquakes rather than commercial drilling as earlier reported. The earthquake combined forces with unusual geologic formation awakening the mud from underground.

Java IslandInitially, the probable cause was widely suspected to be triggered by gas drilling by a subsidiary of the EMP energy company. Java in Sidoarjo is located in one of the world’s sensitive geological areas. This is because of the active volcanoes that threatens 62% of Indonesia’s 250 million population. Therefore, the region is considered very unstable.

Since May 2006, the mud volcano has swallowed factories, rice paddles, houses, roads, etc. Over 40,000 residents were displaced and 15 people lost their lives. The eruption is still ongoing and unfortunately, studies predict that it may continue to do so for another two decades. Another study predicts that it could last to up to 87 years.

The mud, which is 144 million cubic meters, has been diverted to a river nearby. Some of it, however, covers an area estimated to be twice the size of the New York City Central Park.   Despite the uncertainty of the exact trigger, the government pressured the Bakrie family, majority owners of the energy company, to contribute to the compensation and mitigation costs. These costs on average have totaled to $767 million, which has taken a great toll on the country’s economy.

Even if measures have been taken to manage it, geologists still fear the eruption of another mud volcano in the region. More data is needed for better research and planning. Until this natural disaster is fully understood, long-term programs in the country cannot be effectively carried out.

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