Engineers try to halt Indonesia’s giant mudflow

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Engineers are striving to halt an unprecedented mudflow that is inundating villages and has already made more than 10,000 people homeless on the Indonesian island of Java.

The mud geyser near the coastal city of Sidoarjo began on 29 May, and appears to have been caused by a gas drilling accident that breached a deep, pressurised reservoir of hot water and steam.

As the water rises to the surface it erodes a layer of clay, releasing 50,000 cubic metres of mud — enough to fill roughly 20 Olympic swimming pools — every day.

An emergency drilling crew last week started to drill two relief wells around the original one and pump them full of high-density mud to plug the leak.

Drilling experts are confident that the leak will be plugged by late November.

Meanwhile, the mud has swamped local paddy fields, shrimp farms and factories, but the alternative that local officials are considering — diverting the mud flow to a local river — could spell disaster for fisheries.

Link to full article in Science