An oil spill in Balikpapan Bay, first reported on March 31, spread across a large area heading out to the open ocean, the Indonesian authorities say.
The spill came from a pipeline operated by state-owned oil firm Pertamina in the city of Balikpapan, in East Kalimantan province. A report released April 4 by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said the slick was spreading out from Balikpapan Bay and into the Strait of Makassar, covering some 130 square kilometers (50 square miles).
Pertamina, which for days had denied responsibility for the disaster, finally admitted on April 4 that one of its pipes used for transporting crude oil was the source of the slick. Five fishermen died when the oil spill ignited. The pollution spread throughout the bay killing local marine life, causing an overpowering stench across the oil city of Balikpapan.
Pertamina said its sonar equipment revealed a punctured pipeline as the source of the oil spill. The tests showed that one of its pipes had shifted 100 metres from its original position. The pipeline had been dragged out of position and ruptured “by a heavy force”. The bay is used by bulk coal vessels. Before Pertamina’s admission, the crew of one of the bulk vessels, the MV Ever Judger, had been questioned about whether the oil had come from the ship.
Authorities declared a state of emergency in the city on April 3, and warned residents not to light any fire in the area. They also distributed gas masks to protect against the acrid fumes and smoke. The Jakarta Post said that on the fifth day after the oil spill, the pollution has begun to clear, the waters off East Kalimantan’s Semayang Port returning to a deep green with no visible oil slicks. (Source: abc, Mongabay)