Wed, Feb 25, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Indonesian mud victims to receive compensation: firm

AFP AND THE GUARDIAN , JAKARTA

Victims of Indonesia’s devastating mud volcano will next week receive the first installment of the remaining compensation owed by the company blamed for the disaster, a senior executive said yesterday.

Energy company Lapindo, part of the business empire of Indonesian Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie, said it would pay 15 million rupiah (US$1,260) a month to each displaced family until all outstanding compensation was settled.

Lapindo said the installments would eventually total 100 million to 150 million rupiah, representing 80 percent of the value of properties destroyed in the mudflow.

The energy company says it has already paid the remaining 20 percent.

“We’ll start disbursing the compensation on March 3,” Lapindo vice president Andi Darussalam ­Tabussala told reporters. “Some of the the victims will receive full compensation by the end of this year. We’ll finish the compensation by 2010.”

The mud burst from one of the company’s gas wells in East Java in 2006, killing 13 people and displacing about 36,000.

The company has never accepted responsibility, but has agreed to pay compensation to 8,000 families whose homes and villages were buried beneath the mud.

Victims have expressed anger at repeated delays to the payments, with the company most recently blaming the global financial crisis for its failure to meet its obligations.

“There is no one that hasn’t been affected” by the international credit crunch, Tabussala said.

A lawyer for the victims, Taufik Basari, said the compensation scheme failed to benefit all the families affected by the disaster.

“There are still some families who are not included in this compensation scheme,” he said.

“Some victims who feel that the compensation scheme was unfair still want to negotiate further with Lapindo,” Basari said.

The mud volcano has swamped 12 villages in East Java.

Leading geologists assessing the eruption of toxic mud overwhelmingly concluded that it was caused by the drilling of a gas well by Lapindo.

Scientists for the company argued data showed an earthquake in Yogyakarta, 280km away and two days earlier, had been the cause.

But at the conference of 74 petroleum geologists in Cape Town, South Africa, in November last year, only three backed Lapindo, while 42 of the independent scientists agreed fresh evidence revealed the drilling was the cause.

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