Thousands of people, forced to flee the rising mud, have received no compensation [Reuters]

Around 2,000 Indonesians whose homes have been submerged by a gushing mud volcano have held prayers for an end to the disaster on the first anniversary of the eruption.

 

Dressed in white, the victims packed into a football stadium on Tuesday dotted with banners as four giant video screens ran pictures of the mudflow throughout the three-hour ceremony.

 

Exactly a year after the foul-smelling mud first began gushing from a fissure in the earth – and despite a series of imaginative remedies - the crisis shows no sign of abating

 

Indonesia's mud volcano


692 hectares (area eqv. to more than 1,500 soccer pitches) engulfed by mud

Nine villages evacuated

15,000 people displaced

Mud 20 meters deep in some places

Everyday 120,000 cubic metres of mud (eqv. to 48 Olympic swimming pools) is added

Government estimates losses could reach $5bn

The mud has engulfed hundreds of homes and businesses in east Java and defied all efforts to stop it.

 

One scheme to halt the flow involved dropping giant concrete balls into the crater, but the hot mud still spurts from the ground at a rate of 148,000 cubic metres a day.

 

A government team set up to look into ways to control the mud says it will build new dams and strengthen an existing one, but some experts say the mudflow could continue for decades.

 

Earthquake

 

The mud first began flowing from an oil drilling site near Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya.

 

PT Lapindo Brantas, the company which owns the oil well, has denied it is responsible and says the eruption was triggered by a powerful earthquake two days before the eruption began.

 

The mud has forced some 6,000 families from their homes and into makeshift accommodation, with little or no compensation.

 

The black sludge gives off sulphurous fumes, triggering cases of breathlessness and vomiting among hundreds of people.

 

"At first we were told we would be compensated, but it turns out we won't get anything," Zubaida, a 44-year-old whose house and fruit stall have been swamped by the mudflow, told Reuters.

 

Anger

 

Residents whose homes have been submerged
threw flowers into the mud [Reuters]
Lapindo had been ordered by the government to pay $434.8m to victims and for efforts to halt the flow, although officials say the cost could be double that.

 

Lapindo however disputes that the disaster was caused by the drilling and also whether it alone should bear the cost.

 

The company is indirectly controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie.

 

So far 13 people have been investigated over the disaster, but no one has been prosecuted and anger is growing.

 

On Tuesday, about 40 victims of the mud volcano gathered in the centre of Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, to protest against the disaster.

 

Dressed in black shirts, the protesters held banners saying "We want compensation, 100 percent in cash!" and "We want our lives back!"

 

The protesters also carried five birthday cakes made of the volcanic mud and decorated with flowers and candles to be presented to officials including Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president.

Source: Agencies