Indonesia declares emergency after port city oil spill

JAKARTA • Indonesia has declared a state of emergency around a port on Borneo island, officials said, after a large oil spill and fire killed four people at the weekend.

Disaster mitigation officials were able to control the blaze in the port city of Balikpapan but were still working to contain the spill, which started last Saturday and spread over an area of around 12 sq km.

"We have warned the public not to carry out activities that could spark fires," Mr Suryanto, head of the city's environmental agency, said yesterday.

Balikpapan, in East Kalimantan, is a major mining and energy hub and home to one of the few oil refineries in the country, run by state energy firm Pertamina.

The Semayang Port Authority is working with Pertamina and the private PT Chevron Indonesia to clean up the spill.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's law enforcement director-general Rasio Ridho Sani said that a recovery team had deployed oil spill containment booms, which are temporary floating barriers used to contain an oil spill, as well as sprayed chemicals on the oil spots to make recovery easier.

"Our focus now is to mitigate the impact of the oil spill. Since Saturday, our team as well as Pertamina and the Balikpapan Environment and Sanitation Agency have worked together to minimise the impact."

Mr Rasio said the agency had taken samples to determine the impact and source of the spill.

"Our team in the field is investigating it thoroughly. We will soon find out how big the impact is on the environment and who will be held responsible," he added.

Pertamina said it was doing its own investigations and that its underwater pipeline in the area did not have any leaks.

The city has distributed masks to local residents after some 1,200 people living in the Penajam sub-district, Penajam Paser Utara regency, complained of nausea and breathing problems after Saturday's incident.

REUTERS, JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesia declares emergency after port city oil spill'. Print Edition | Subscribe