Three Years After Eruption, Victims of Indonesian Mud Volcano Await Compensation
By Solenn Honorine
29 May 2009

Three years ago, burning gray mud erupted from the earth, in the Sidoarjo 
region of the Indonesian island of Java. Since then, the mud volcano has forced 
12,000 families to flee their homes. A drilling company is accused of 
triggering the eruption, but some victims of the volcano are still waiting 
compensation for their lost property.

A year ago, Lilik Kaminah and her two children were living in a scant 10 
square-meter stall in a deserted market place, together with 600 other families 
who had fled the burning mud flow. She called it a tragedy: she lost her land, 
her house, all of her life savings.

Still waiting

A year later, not much has changed in her life.

In a telephone interview, Lilik explains that she is still waiting for most of 
the compensation she is entitled to for her lost property. She says the money 
is the only way for her to start rebuilding her life.

The volcano has swallowed villages and farms, leaving more than 40,000 people 

Lapindo is an Indonesian oil and gas company that was drilling near the 
epicenter of the volcano. Some geology experts say its drilling may have caused 
the eruption. Lapindo says the volcano was triggered by an earthquake and 
denies any responsibility for the disaster. Still, the company has promised to 
compensate its victims.

But the global economic crisis hit the Bakrie conglomerate, which owns Lapindo. 
Yuniwati, a Lapindo representative, says that total payments should be made by 

"We have the intention to settle everything by June [2010]," Yuniwati said, 
"but unfortunately at this moment we have a global crisis. If it [the 
compensation] was only borne by Lapindo itself, it would be impossible. That's 
why Bakrie helps Lapindo."

Court decision deals blow to victims

This week, Indonesia's Supreme Court rejected a lawsuit claiming that Lapindo 
and government officials were to blame for the disaster and failed to fully 
compensate the victims.

Victims of the mud volcano have no hope of returning to their land. It lies 
under a huge lake of mud that sprawls 640 hectares - twice the size of New 
York's Central Park - and is still growing.

Sumarsono heads the Indonesian government's mud flow mitigation team. He says 
that there is no way to predict when the volcano will stop gushing. Some have 
been active for decades.

For now, victims from the mud volcano are organizing demonstrations to demand 
their compensation money. For them, it is the only way to get new land, new 
homes, and their lives back on track.

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