Oil Spill in Balikpapan Takes Toll on Residents, Destroys Wildlife

A policeman scoops oil polluting a beach in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Monday (02/02). (Antara Photo/Sheravim)

By : Adinda Normala and Amal Ganesha | on 12:29 PM April 06, 2018
Category : News, Environment, Featured

Jakarta. Last week's oil spill in East Kalimantan has killed five people and is destroying marine life in the waters off Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

The oil, which came from a leak in a pipeline owned by state energy company Pertamina, has since March 30 spread to Makassar Strait, covering 13,000 hectares, including 34 hectares of mangrove swamps, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said on Wednesday (04/04).

A dead Irrawaddy dolphin washed ashore near the site of the incident. It is suspected the endangered species was poisoned by the toxic leak.

Officials from the Ministry of Fisheries conduct an autopsy on a dolphin in Klandasan Beach, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Tuesday (02/04). (Antara Photo/Sheravim) Officials from the Ministry of Fisheries conduct an autopsy on a dolphin in Klandasan Beach, Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, on Tuesday (02/04). (Antara Photo/Sheravim)

Hundreds of people living in the area have reported nausea and dizziness, probably caused by inhaling toxic chemicals from the oil.

Environment Minister Siti Nurbaya said a special task force is trying to stop the spread of the contamination with containment booms.

Deadly Oil Spill Fire

The leakage was reportedly caused by a ship that anchored in the bay and destroyed the pipe. The vessel then caught fire, killing five people who were fishing in the area.

"We suspect the pipeline was dragged by the ship that caught fire," director general of oil and gas at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, Djoko Siswanto, told reporters on Thursday.

"It had to anchor due to bad weather conditions," Siswanto said, adding that ships are not allowed to cast anchor in that part of the bay.

Pertamina initially said the oil came from the vessel. On Wednesday, however, it announced that its 20-year-old underwater pipeline linked to a refinery in Balikpapan was the source of the spill.

The vessel's owners will be questioned and can face manslaughter charges, Siswanto said.

With additional reporting by Reuters.

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