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Indonesia Oil Spill Kills Five People


A leak from an underwater pipeline of state-owned oil firm Pertamina, first reported on March 31st in Borneo, led the Indonesian government to declare a state of emergency for days.

The spill spread out from Balikpapan bay covering an area of 130 square kilometres, while the attempts to contain the spill by burning it off the sea surface led to the death of five fishermen due to the fires. The same fires caused health problems to citizens of Balikpapan. The oil spill covered more than 2.7 square kilometres of mangrove forest and led to the death of dolphins.

Image credit: BBC

Now Pertamina is undergoing a criminal investigation as to their responsibility for the disaster. It appears that the Pertamina refinery in Balikpapan was not equipped with an early-warning system, nor with automated monitoring.

Indeed, it took the company four days to admit that the leak originated from their underwater pipeline, and by then the oil spill had already spread and fires had broken out. Furthermore, the company’s maintenance policy was confined to the legal requirement of one inspection every three years, and the 20-year old pipe was not in a good condition.

Furthermore, the police are looking into indications that a coal ship caused the leak by illegally anchoring and damaging the pipeline.

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