Thick, foul smelling mud has forced thousands to flee their homes [GALLO/GETTY]


A mud volcano on the eastern end of Indonesia's main island of Java is continuing to spew a thick toxic slime two years after it first erupted.

 

With the mud flowing fast enough to fill 60 Olympic swimming pools a day, large areas of farmland and thousands of houses have been submerged.

 

Aerial photographs of the area near Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya, show nothing but rooftops poking through a vast lake of thick, foul smelling mud.

 

Efforts to stem the mudflow 
have all failed [EPA]
To date all efforts to stem the flow, including dropping huge concrete balls into the mouth of the volcano and building dams to hold back the sludge, have failed and the mud shows little sign of slowing.

 

According to government figures more than 640 hectares of land have been inundated by the mud, swallowing two entire villages and threatening at least 10 more.

 

More than 36,000 people have been forced to flee their homes.

 

Many others nearby live with the constant threat that hastily-built dykes could collapse and bury their homes as well

 

Oil exploration firm PT Lapindo Brantas, indirectly controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister, Aburizal Bakrie, has been accused of causing the mudflow by drilling at a gas well without proper equipment.

 

Last year Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, ordered the company to pay more than $420m for compensation and mud containment efforts.

 

Indonesia's mud volcano


More than 15,000 people displaced

Mud 20 meters deep in some places

Mud enough to fill about 60 Olympic swimming pools gushes out daily

G
overnment estimates losses could reach $5bn

The government has also set aside about $77m in state funds for relief and rebuilding but it is unclear how much of that money has been dispersed.

 

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

 

Last December a court ruled that the mudflow was a "natural disaster".

 

Yuniwati Teryana, a Lapindo executive, told the AFP news agency that regardless of the court ruling the company has paid out about $342m for land compensation and rebuilding.

 

She said most of the 12,039 claimants who produced ownership papers have received a first instalment of 20 per cent of the value of their land while another 1,000 who could not prove land ownership will be resettled "with the same land area as the one they lost".

 

But another 2,000 displaced residents remain living in makeshift shelters.

 

They have rejected both payment schemes saying Lapindo should buy their lost homes so they can rebuild elsewhere.