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Cablegate: East Java Mudflow Update: 98th Geyser Appears Amid Protests

VZCZCXRO7751
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJS #0099 2381014
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 251014Z AUG 08
FM AMCONSUL SURABAYA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0277
INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0146
RUEHJA/AMEMBASSY JAKARTA 0263
RUEHJS/AMCONSUL SURABAYA 0282
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0146
RUEHCAA/GEOLOGICAL SURVEY DEPT OF INTERIOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SURABAYA 000099

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS, EB/ESC/IEC
DEPT FOR DC/IP/EAP
DOE FOR CUTLER/PI-32 AND NAKANO/P-42
COMMERCE FOR USDOC 4430

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV EPET ELAB ENRG PGOV ASEC ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA MUDFLOW UPDATE: 98TH GEYSER APPEARS AMID PROTESTS
THAT COULD CAUSE DIKE COLLAPSE

REF: SURABAYA 85 (AND PREVIOUS)

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect
accordingly.

1. (SBU) Summary: As river levels rise due to increased
sedimentation, local residents forced the Sidoarjo Mud
Management Agency (BPLS) to stop pumping mud slurry into the
Porong River. BPLS estimates that the added pressure could
cause dike failure within several days, although the dikes'
tolerance levels are unknown. Meanwhile, geysers and cash
flares are erupting in communities several kilometers from the
epicenter creating public anger and increased concern about the
ever widening impact of subsidence. End Summary.

Protests Threaten Dike Integrity
--------------------------------

2. (SBU) A standoff with angry residents has stalled mud
mitigation efforts and threatens the stability of the
containment's dikes. For over a year and a half, the Sidoarjo
Mud Management Agency (BPLS) has pumped mud slurry from holding
ponds into the Porong River. According to BPLS, this has been
the only thing preventing a buildup of pressure behind the
earthen dikes and their large-scale collapse. BPLS stopped
pumping mud into the Porong in the afternoon of August 20 after
residents of Kupang village demanded that BPLS shutdown the
pipes. As of 25 August pumping has yet to resume according to
BPLS. As a result, each day an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of
volcanic mud is added to nearby holding ponds and is approaching
dangerous levels, according to BPLS engineers. Even when
pumping is proceeding normally earth must be added to the dike
walls due to continued subsidence (reftel).

3. (SBU) An August 21, visit by Congen Surabaya to the mudflow
containment showed that this dry season is the strongest test
for mitigation efforts yet. The original spillway connecting
the containment with the river at its nearest point is now no
longer used for disposing of the mud. Currently pumps force the
mud slurry through pipes over a considerably longer distance.
Now even this "plan B" for mud disposal is proving problematic
due to protests and low river levels during the dry season. A
BPLS geologist told us that at current flow rates the
containment's earthen dikes could fail after several days, yet
how much more the dikes might hold, and for how long, remains
unknown.

Geysers Erupt Well Beyond the Epicenter
---------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Geysers and gas flares caused by increasing subsidence
continue to expand the area affected by the disaster well beyond
the containment area. On August 19th, more gas flares erupted
and several powerful geysers have appeared in Siring, some two
kilometers west of the epicenter (reftel). Angry over their
exclusion from compensation, Siring residents forcibly detained
a BPLS spokesman and his staff for several hours and stopped the
fire department from extinguishing a methane gas flare.
According to a BPLS contact and local media, this was an effort
to preserve evidence of the danger they face and bolster claims
for compensation. Nearby Jatirejo village, just a kilometer
west of the containment, reported its 98th geyser on August 12.
Geysers and gas flares continue their march farther from the
epicenter as subsidence continues. Mindi village, three and a
half kilometers southwest of the mudflow epicenter, reported its
first geyser on August 8.

MCCLELLAND

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