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Muddy hell

It's an apocalyptic scene. As far as the eye can see stretches a flattened landscape sodden with cracked mud. Zigzagging pathways of rocks and roof tiles laid down by former residents indicate where it is safe to walk. The
jagged remains of crumbling brick walls poke through this scummy mantle like the exposed bones of a fossilised dinosaur; bathrooms, doorframes, the odd tiled kitchen, stand alone where once together they formed the homes of Kedung Bentoh, a thriving rice farming community situated in the lush lowlands of East Java, Indonesia.
Bambang, 28, wades waist-deep through the hot grey sludge that buried his old house, occasionally plunging below the surface to retrieve used bricks to sell. Bambang and his wife Tuti, 23, are among up to 50,000 people
struggling to survive after being displaced by the world's fastest growing mud volcano, 'Lusi'.

Three years after it began, this natural disaster has no end in sight. On May 28th 2006, Lapindo Brantas, a company drilling for natural gas in Sidoardjo district, reported a 'blow out' some 3 kilometres beneath the earth's crust. The bore hole became the funnel tip for a mud volcano, a vast underground sea of scalding, watery mud. The sludge is flowing at up to 5 million cubic feet a day, enough to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools every 24 hours, and experts say that it could continue for many years or even decades. As the authorities continue to search for a solution, Bambang and Tuti and their fellow mud victims are in limbo, waiting for promised compensation and facing an uncertain future.

Full text by Tom McCawley available.
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