Deadly Indonesia oil spill caused by burst pipe: company

April 4, 2018
Thick smoke rises from a blaze which broke out during the oil spill cleanup in the waters off Balikpapan

An oil spill off Borneo island that led to five deaths and the declaration of a state of emergency was caused by a ruptured undersea pipe, Indonesia's national oil company Pertamina said Wednesday.

The leakage, which started in waters near Balikpapan city early Saturday, has spread at least 26 kilometres (16 miles) and coated large areas of the coast in thick black sludge.

Five fishermen died in a fire sparked by workers who were trying to clear the by burning it off the water's surface, a local search and rescue agency spokesman said.

"They were a group of men who were on vacation together and went fishing," said Octavianto, a senior official of the East Borneo search and rescue agency, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

State-owned Pertamina, which had initially denied responsibility, said Wednesday that one of its pipes used for transporting crude oil, laid about 25 metres below the sea surface, was the source of the huge leak.

"Since it was first detected, we have closed the crude oil supply from Lawe-lawe to Balikpapan as a precaution," Pertamina spokesman Togar MP told reporters.

Police and Pertamina are investigating the source of the pipe fracture but initial inspections by divers show that it has shifted about 120 metres from its initial location on the seabed.

A state of emergency was declared Tuesday in Balikpapan as local officials warned residents not to light cigarettes in the area and distributed gas masks because of the acrid fumes and smoke.

Dramatic aerial photos showed masses of spread across the surface of the ocean and black blobs covering beaches.

The precise impact on sea life is not yet clear, but one endangered Irrawaddy dolphin has washed ashore dead.

Several oil booms have been deployed to try contain the spill with about 69,300 cubic metres having been collected as of Tuesday evening, the environment ministry said in a statement.

"We have asked the team as well as Pertamina to prioritise the cleaning of in residential areas due to the stench and other potential risks," said Environment Minister Nurbaya Bakar.

Explore further: China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Related Stories

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

January 17, 2018

The wreck of an Iranian oil tanker that collided with a cargo ship off China this month has been located, Beijing said Wednesday, but gave no new details about the environmental impact of the disaster.

Russia battles to contain Black Sea oil spill

December 25, 2014

A Russian Black Sea city declared a state of emergency Thursday after a burst pipeline spewed oil into the landlocked water body, with stormy weather hampering cleanup efforts.

China spots four oil slicks from sunken tanker

January 18, 2018

The spill from a sunken Iranian tanker off China's east coast has spawned four oil slicks as authorities prepared to send robots to the wreckage to assess the environmental damage.

China's CNOOC cleaning up after another oil spill

October 16, 2011

Chinese oil giant CNOOC said Sunday it has suspended production at a platform off northeastern China after a ruptured pipe leaked crude into Bohai Bay, in the lastest spill to hit the company.

Oil spill threatens Israel nature reserve

December 5, 2014

A major pipeline leak has caused oil to gush into the Arava desert in southern Israel, threatening a protected nature reserve, officials said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Evidence of earliest life on Earth disputed

October 17, 2018

When Australian scientists presented evidence in 2016 of life on Earth 3.7 billon years ago—pushing the record back 220 million years—it was a big deal, influencing even the search for life on Mars.

Arctic greening thaws permafrost, boosts runoff

October 17, 2018

A new collaborative study has investigated Arctic shrub-snow interactions to obtain a better understanding of the far north's tundra and vast permafrost system. Incorporating extensive in situ observations, Los Alamos National ...

Arctic ice sets speed limit for major ocean current

October 17, 2018

The Beaufort Gyre is an enormous, 600-mile-wide pool of swirling cold, fresh water in the Arctic Ocean, just north of Alaska and Canada. In the winter, this current is covered by a thick cap of ice. Each summer, as the ice ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.