Mud Volcano displacing thousands in Indonesia

Satelite Imagery of Sidoarjo before and after Sidoarjo mud flow.
Satelite Imagery of Sidoarjo before and after Sidoarjo mud flow.Courtesy NASA
I saw this story as I was flipping through the January 2008 issue of National Geographic. Since May 2006 a mud volcano has been “erupting” 18.5 million gallons of hot mud a day along with hydrogen sulphide gas in Sidoarjo, East Java, 22 miles south of Indonesia's second largest city, Surabaya. The volcano, called Lusi, has displaced 10,000 families and has cost Indonesia over $3.7 billion to date.

What caused the mud volcano to start erupting is interesting – and up for debate. Initially, PT Lapindo Brantas, an oil and gas company drilling just over 200 yards away when the volcano started to erupt from its drilling rig on May 28, 2006, was blamed, and it was ordered to pay nearly $500 million. However, on May 27, 2006, a major earthquake struck and devastated Yogyakarta on Java (5,782 dead, 36,299 injured, 1.5 million homeless) and this too could have contributed to the mud volcano’s eruption. Skeptics point out that the epicenter of this earthquake was nearly 200 miles away and the earthquake was only 2 on the Richter scale in Sidoarjo. Recent rulings regarding the eruption have called it a “natural disaster”.

Given the amount of the damage, and the impact on the people and the economy and businesses, the issue of who, or what, is responsible is being hotly debated. The disaster is being investigated by local, national and international experts.

There are tons of interesting articles about this on the web – I’ll list a few below. What I highly encourage you to check out are the satellite photos of the region that are available – to visually see the amount of mud that has overtaken this area – up to 60 feet deep in some areas, is remarkable.

These satellite images show the difference in the area around the eruption between October 2005 and August 2006 (scroll down on the page to see the images).

This is the most recent photo of the area. Click on the earlier images to see the spread of the mud over time. It’s scary.

Google site seeing.

A slideshow of images from Greenpeace. The first image is striking.

Inside Indonesia article.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

LEE's picture
LEE says:

Dang. The hot mud spread so wide.

posted on Sun, 02/24/2008 - 1:16pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

Researchers have determined that the mud volcano could not have been caused by a remote earthquake, and are instead again blaming the drilling company saying that it probably resulted from their failing to properly reinforce a problematic gas well. Read more about this recent finding here.

posted on Thu, 07/24/2008 - 4:51pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

An update from the Irish Times on the mud volcano.

posted on Tue, 07/29/2008 - 7:52am
Joe's picture
Joe says:

Indonesia's vice president said today that the government has given up all hope of halting the mud volcano. Read more here.

posted on Fri, 09/12/2008 - 12:02pm
Hardi Prasetyo's picture

Based on more two years woriking together with Lusi and compiling the subsurface geological, geophysical data and information from over the world as a valuable tool to make justification a rational reality for future measures steps are: 1) the Lusi's mud volcano eruption difficult to stop it, 2) the Lusi will continue to erupt of hot mud for several years to come, no body know exactly when it will be stooped, but available data have a ranges 23-35 years duration, 3) the consequence for future years the multiplier impact as geological hazard will rationally increase such as subsidence ranges from sag like subsidence to sudden collapse, bubble with methane gas, cracks and faults. Those three critical issues are challenging for BPLS as a new basic changes and will be responsed with new paradigm and revice strategy for managing Lusi's mudflow disaster.
Please visit web site www.bpls.go.id you will have an actual condition, as well you can directly posted your positive and smart suggestion for BPLS.
Hardi Prasetyo
Vice Chairman BPLS

posted on Tue, 07/28/2009 - 3:06pm

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