Indonesia to plug mud volcano

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An enormous mud-spewing volcano in East Java, Indonesia is to become the newest testing grounds for the human control of natural phenomena. In this instance, the natural phenomenon may actually be initiated through human activity. If so, the humans responsible for the disaster may eventually answer to the over 10,000 former residents of the land currently reduced the world's most unruly mud puddle.

A consultant for the oil and gas industry is on record saying, "This is a natural disaster induced by drilling activity...Somehow, or somewhere, several mistakes occurred that caused the mud to come from the hole." Since its birth over eight months ago, the mud volcano has expelled as much as 126,000 cubic meters of mud per day. A recent publication of the Geological Society of America has concurred with the earlier assessment.

The mud is not toxic, but it smells bad and reaches over 4 meters deep at some points. Entire villages have been filled by the mud flow. Management techniques for the disaster have included diverting the flow into the ocean, which has in turn produced anxieties regarding the potential of ecological damage to the ocean.

In an attempt to check the deluge of hot mud, a recent (and contentious) intervention has been placed into motion: the volcano will be plugged. Although the plan seems cartoonish, Rudi Novrianto -- spokesman for the national mudflow disaster commission -- is on record saying, "We will insert high density chained balls inside the mud volcano. This technique is expected to reduce the amount of mud flow and ease the pressure at the source of the gushing."

The obvious possibility of pressure buildup, and a secondary (and more violent) mud eruption, has been addressed. Richard Davies of Durham university is on record stating "...nobody has ever done this before...the pressure may build, forcing open other vents, possibly exacerbating the situation."

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