Thu, Jan 25, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Java mudflow not a natural disaster, UK scientists say

AP , JAKARTA

A mud volcano that inundated dozens of villages was probably triggered by commercial gas drilling, research published in a respected scientific journal shows, contradicting an Indo-nesian government minister who insists it was a natural disaster.

"It is very likely" that the mud flow in Sidoarjo, eastern Java, which has spewed a million barrels of mud a day for eight months, is manmade, four researchers say in the February issue of the Geological Society of America's GSA Today.

Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie -- whose family controls the PT Lapindo Brantas drilling company at the center of the scandal -- has repeatedly claimed the geyser was sparked by a May 27 earthquake and that his company bears no financial liability.

But the British-based scientists believe drilling at a depth of more than 2km ruptured a highly pressurized pocket of hot gas and water which created fissures in a bed of porous limestone.

"Once initiated, the fractures would have propagated to the surface, driven by the deep pressure," it said.

"It would be highly coincidental for an earthquake-induced fracture to form 200m away from this well and provide the entire fracture network required for an eruption on the earth's surface," it says.

Since May, around 126,000m3 of sediment has gushed from the site. Around 11,000 people have been forced from their homes while four villages and 25 factories have been consumed by a 10m-layer of smelly gunk.

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