Indonesia: Balikpapan declares emergency status after oil spill

N. Adri The Jakarta Post 2 Apr 18;

The Balikpapan administration in East Kalimantan has declared an emergency status in the city following an oil spill on Saturday that triggered a fire on Balikpapan Bay.

“We are in an emergency situation because of the oil spill,” municipal secretary Sayid MN Fadli said at City Hall on Monday.

Two people died in the fire on Saturday and another was severely injured. Authorities found two more bodies on Monday, while one person remains missing.

Fadli urged residents who conduct activities around the bay to make safety a priority, then specifically warned smokers to refrain from lighting cigarettes.

“I may be exaggerating [with regard to smokers], but the bay is now like a gas station,” he added.

The city has distributed masks to protect residents from the overwhelming smell of fuel.

The Semayang Port Authority is coordinating with private oil company PT Chevron Indonesia and state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina to clean the spill.

As Balikpapan Police continue to investigating the source of the spill, Pertamina has denied it had anything to do with the incident. Based on tests the firm conducted on oil samples found in the bay, the spill comprises marine fuel oil, not crude oil, Pertamina said.

Marine fuel oil is used as fuel for ships, it added.

According to most recent reports, the spill has spread to the Makassar Strait in South Sulawesi.

Residential areas on the coast have also been affected.

Residents of Kampung Atas Air Margasari, who live in stilted houses, have reported a strong, fuel-like smell in the area, with Mukmin Azis claiming that a black substance was spreading in the waters beneath his house.

Health authorities in Penajam Paser Utara regency reported that some 1,200 people in Penajam subdistrict had complained of experiencing nausea, difficulty breathing and vomiting over the weekend.

Coastal residents have said they were afraid of lighting fires, including to cook and grill fish, in front of their houses.

The Balikpapan administration provided them with ready-made meals. (evi)

Borneo oil spill: Fishermen and environmentalists concerned over spread of slick
Adam Harvey and Archicco Guiliano ABC News 3 Apr 18;

An Indonesian oil company has denied responsibility for a major oil slick off the coast of Borneo, which appears to be spreading and contaminating new stretches of coastline and local fisheries.

At least four fishermen died in Balikpapan Bay on the weekend when part of the slick ignited. A fifth fisherman is missing.

The toxic slick is at least 4 kilometres long and fishermen say it has already killed at least one protected dugong that washed up on a local beach yesterday.

They also said it was wrecking their livelihood.

"It's a fire hazard and the smell is still there," local fisherman Maspele told the ABC.

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VIDEO: Huge plumes of dark smoke emerge from oil slick fire off Borneo coast (ABC News)
"I'm standing on the coast nearby and the smell is so strong it's giving me a headache.

"The sea pollution is so bad and we've lost our livelihood."

Fishermen in the town of Balikpapan, in the Indonesian province of East Kalimantan, said they would hold a protest on Wednesday over the lack of responsibility shown by the Indonesian Government and the state-owned oil company Pertamina.

"We demand the stakeholders investigate and punish the culprit who's caused this ecological disaster and caused the loss of lives," Maspele said.

Pertamina said the spill had nothing to do with its nearby refinery or undersea pipeline.

The general manager of the nearby Pertamina Unit V Refinery said the company's divers had not been able to find any pipeline leaks.

"That's the reason why we're still running the refinery facility normally," manager Togar Manuring said.

The fishermen and environmentalists were sceptical about Pertamina's claim it was not responsible for the slick.

"We think there must be a leak from the Pertamina pipe because it's located very close to the oil — maybe 100 metres," Pradarma Rupang, from the local environmental group Jatam, said.

"There is no shipwreck, no collision, no sinking ship, no burned ship, nothing. Suddenly oil appears in the middle of the sea.

"People in the coastal area smelt oil at midnight on March 31, then there was a fire at 10:00am. There's an offshore refinery of Pertama nearby."

Borneo oil spill: Police question bulk coal carrier crew after four people killed, water polluted
Adam Harvey ABC News 3 Apr 18;

Indonesian police are questioning the crew of a bulk coal carrier over an oil spill off the island of Borneo that killed four fishermen and continues to pollute local waters.

Police have taken fuel samples from the Panama-flagged MV Ever Judger, which remains in Balikpapan Bay.

The ship, which is crewed by Chinese nationals, had been due to take a load of Indonesian coal to Malaysia.

The spill continues to affect the bay, with aerial footage showing it has spread across a wide area.

The oil slick ignited on Friday morning, killing four fishermen and sending thick black smoke over the city of Balikpapan. Another man remains missing.

A police forensic team has taken fuel samples from the ship as well as from a nearby refinery operated by state-owned oil company Pertamina, East Kalimantan provincial police chief Inspector General Priyo Widyanto told ABC News.

Pertamina pipelines run across the bay.

"We're questioning some witnesses including the boat crew of MV Ever Judger, also the local residents, workers from Pertamina — and we're waiting for all the results," Inspector General Widyanto said.

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VIDEO: Huge plumes of dark smoke emerge from oil slick fire off Borneo coast (ABC News)
Pertamina said it is not responsible for the oil leak.

It said its own testing showed the slick was diesel fuel oil, not crude oil from the refinery.

The noxious fumes from the leak continue to affect Balikpapan, which has a population of 700,000 people.

The fumes are causing health problems throughout the city, environmental group Jatam's Pradama Rupang said.

"This is dangerous for people who live around the cove," he said.

"It's also affecting the fishermen — let's say they used to be able to catch two to three kilograms of fish. Now they get nothing.

"It's a hit to the economy — all the cafes along the coast are losing their customers because of the smell."

Indonesia declares state of emergency as oil spill spreads
BBC 3 Apr 18;

Indonesia has declared a state of emergency to help stop a deadly oil spill spreading off the coast of the island of Borneo.

At least four fishermen in the port city of Balikpapan were killed over the weekend when the fuel ignited.

Hundreds of people have reported health issues since Saturday's spill.

It is not clear what caused the oil spill. As it continues to spread, the risk of further fires is increasing, the authorities said on Tuesday.

The Balikpapan environmental agency has warned members of the local community to avoid any activities "that could spark fires".

The spill, which threatens to further contaminate the fishing waters along the coast, currently covers an area of 12 sq km (seven sq miles).

In addition to the four reported deaths, local health officials have said that hundreds of people in the area have experienced difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting since the oil fires broke out.

Issuing a state of emergency allows for the release of government funds to aid local authorities in their efforts to contain the spill and for any subsequent clean-up operations.

Balikpapan, which is in East Kalimantan province, is home to a large oil refinery belonging to the state-owned company Pertamina. As investigations continue into how the oil escaped into the sea, Pertamina says its underwater pipeline has not leaked.

A general manager at the refinery told the Jakarta Post on Saturday that the spill was marine fuel oil, not crude.

Fishermen in Balikpapan say they will take part in a protest on Wednesday to hold the Indonesian government and Pertamina to account for the spill.

Pertamina has denied responsibility for the disaster.