Indra Harsaputra and Slamet
Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Sidoarjo, Yogyakarta
The government has decided to
permanently close the key Surabaya-Gempol turnpike
Saturday after a gas pipeline in the mudflow disaster site
in Sidoarjo, East Java, exploded Wednesday night not far
from the turnpike, killing at least 11 people.
Public Works Minister Djoko
Kirmanto said a section of the turnpike buried by the
mudflow, which has been spurting forth from the Lapindo
Brantas Inc. gas exploration site since May 29, would be
permanently closed and would not be reopened since it
would endanger traffic.
"The closure is permanent and
it's impossible for the Porong turnpike to be reopened,"
Djoko said Saturday while visiting the construction of
Sabo dam, built as a precautionary measure in case cold
pyroclastic material comes rushing down the slopes of Mt.
Merapi in Yogyakarta when the rainy season arrives.
He said turnpike traffic would be
diverted to several alternative roads, adding that his
office was currently working on traffic management and
repairing several damaged roads.
"There are roads that already
have four lanes, but there are those with two lanes. We
will expand the two-lane roads into four lanes," Djoko
He said the government would
build a new turnpike above existing roads, but not above
the closed turnpike, since the area was inundated by mud.
He said his office had not yet
calculated the financial losses caused by the gas
The national team in charge of
dealing with the mudflow disaster has also disclosed a
plan following Wednesday's explosion to relocate the gas
pipeline immediately, since it was impossible to stop the
"In the meantime, the damaged
pipeline belonging to state oil and gas company Pertamina
will be replaced with a new one. This work is expected to
be completed within three days so it will not disrupt the
affected companies' gas supply," the team's executive
chief, Basuki Hadimulyono, told The Jakarta Post
He said other public facilities,
including railway tracks, would also be relocated
immediately, along with hundreds of residents living a
kilometer away from the hot mud source.
"We have evacuated 76 families,
or around 100 people. They're fleeing in fear that the
mudflow will spread further to residential areas," Basuki
Since it was first spotted, the
mudflow has displaced more than 10,000 people as well as
flooded several villages, dozens of factories and swathes
of paddy and sugarcane fields, causing an unfolding
environmental disaster in Sidoarjo, an industrial city not
far from Surabaya, the country's second largest city and
Donations have started arriving
for mudflow victims, including from the People's
Association on Conscience (PAC) of Japan that donated over
200 cans of powdered milk following the explosion.
The explosion happened after an
embankment built to contain the hot mud collapsed,
increasing pressure on the pipe located underneath the
sand-and-gravel dikes, releasing gas and causing it to
On Saturday, rescue workers were
forced to suspend the search for two people still missing.
"We have stopped the search now
because the temperature of the mud is more than 60 degrees
(Celsius) now," M. Hernanto, the coordinator of the rescue
team, told Reuters.
"Two people have not been found
yet, one of them was an excavator operator," he said,
adding that rescue operations would resume once the mud