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Oil Spill Now Larger Than Paris Ravages Indonesian Island, 5 Dead

Oil Spill Now Larger Than Paris Ravages Indonesian Island, 5 Dead
An oil spill in Borneo that began over the past weekend has now spread across an area greater than the city of Paris and is heading out to the open ocean, the Indonesian government said.

The spill, first reported on March 31, stems from a pipeline operated by state-owned oil firm Pertamina in the city of Balikpapan, in East Kalimantan province. A report released April 4 by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the slick was spreading out from Balikpapan Bay and into the Strait of Makassar, covering some 130 square kilometers (50 square miles).

Pertamina, which for days had denied responsibility for the disaster, finally admitted on April 4 that one of its pipes used for transporting crude oil was the source of the slick.

“Our preliminary investigation had indicated that the oil was ship fuel, but it was only until [the evening of April 3] that we got confirmation that it was from us,” Pertamina general manager Togar M.P. told reporters. “Ever since the incident was discovered, we have shut down the pipes.”

The incident has been blamed for the deaths of five fishermen in a fire sparked by clean-up workers who were trying to clear the oil by burning it off the water’s surface.

Some 84 acres of mangrove forests are covered in oil, the environment ministry report said. The slick is also believed to have led to the death of an endangered Irrawaddy dolphin (orcaella brevirostris), a protected species under Indonesian law, which was found washed up on the coast near the site of the spill.

Thousands of people in Balikpapan, a city of 700,000, have also complained about health problems from the toxic slick.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in the city on April 3, and warned residents not to light cigarettes in the area. They also distributed gas masks to protect against the acrid fumes and smoke.

“Dolphins have died from oil spills in Balikpapan Bay. The marine waters are polluted. Until now the impact of oil the spill can not be overcome,” said Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management Sutopo Purwo Nugroho (via Google Translate).

The East Kalimantan police and Pertamina are investigating the cause of the leak, after divers from the company found the pipe had moved some 328 feet from its initial position on the seabed.

Togar suggested “an external heavy force” had caused the damage to the 20-year-old pipe. Balikpapan Bay sees heavy traffic, particularly of coal barges coming through from the Borneo hinterland.

The police said a criminal prosecution may follow.

Nearly 18,300 gallons of oil was collected as of Tuesday evening, and several oil booms have been deployed to contain the spill, the environment ministry said.

“We have told our teams and also Pertamina to prioritize cleaning up the spill near settlements, considering the strong smell and other potential risks [from the slick],” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar said in a statement.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

Source: EcoWatch

By:  Basten Gokkon

LINK:  https://www.ecowatch.com/oil-pipeline-spill-indonesia-death-2556835512.html

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Deadly Oil Spill Leaves Indonesian Bay ‘Like a Gas Station’

Indonesia has declared a state of emergency after a large oil spill ignited and killed at least four people in the port city of Balikpapan off the island of Borneo over the weekend.

The blaze is now under control but the oil continues to spread. According to BBC News, the slick currently covers an area of seven square miles and threatens to further pollute the waters.


Fishermen told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the spill has killed at least one protected dugong and the contamination could destroy their livelihoods.

“It’s a fire hazard and the smell is still there,” local fisherman Maspele told the publication Monday.

Hundreds of locals have reported health issues including difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting from the smell of fuel and black smoke.

The city has distributed masks to protect residents, the Jakarta Post reported.

“I may be exaggerating [with regard to smokers], but the bay is now like a gas station,” Balikpapan secretary Sayid MN Fadli said at City Hall on Monday.

Balikpapan, which has a population of 700,000 people, is a major mining and energy hub and home of state-owned energy company Pertamina.

Pertamina said the disaster has nothing to do with its nearby refinery or undersea pipelines that run across the bay, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The firm’s tests on oil samples found marine fuel oil used for ships, not crude oil, it said.

Police are investigating the source of the spill and are questioning the crew of a bulk coal carrier operated by Chinese nationals and have taken samples from the ship, the MV Ever Judger.

“We’re questioning some witnesses including the boat crew of MV Ever Judger, also the local residents, workers from Pertamina—and we’re waiting for all the results,” Inspector General Widyanto said.

Source: EcoWatch

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LINK:  https://www.ecowatch.com/oil-spill-indonesia-2555846407.html?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=22c2f3b4d3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-22c2f3b4d3-86118937

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