Press "Enter" to skip to content

Deadly Oil Spill in Indonesia

Balikpapan, Indonesia —(Map)

A large oil spill near the Indonesian city of Balikpapan has killed at least 5 people and made hundreds of others sick. The oil has spread over 50 square miles.

On March 31, a large fire broke out as people tried to clean up an oil spill. One report said the fire started when people tried to “clean up” the oil spill by burning it off. The fire killed at least five people. The smoke and dangerous chemicals from the fire have made hundreds of other people sick.

Around 700,000 people live in Balikpapan, which is on the island of Borneo. The city secretary said that the water in front of the city was like “a gas station”.

Balikpapan has huge oil factories and tanks for storing oil.
Balikpapan has huge oil factories and tanks for storing oil.
(Source: Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures, via Wikimedia Commons.)

The oil spill seems to have been started when a ship carrying coal tried to anchor itself in bad weather. The anchor caught on an oil pipe and dragged it over 100 yards. The pipe, which was 20 years old, broke.

The pipeline belongs to Pertamina, an oil company that is owned by the government of Indonesia. But for many days Pertamina said the leak was not from their pipe. Later, they sent divers down. The divers found out the the oil was coming from Pertamina’s pipe. After that, Pertamina stopped using the pipe so that no more oil would come out. By that time the leak had been going on for days.

The oil spill has spread over 50 square miles and polluted 37 miles of coast.
The oil spill has spread over 50 square miles and polluted 37 miles of coast.
(Source: BNPB (Indonesian National Board for Disaster Management) via Twitter.)

Now the leak covers about 50 square miles and has polluted about 37 miles of land at the edge of the sea. So far, no one has said how much oil has leaked, but by Tuesday, workers had collected about 18,300 gallons of oil. The amount spilled must be many times larger than this.

Floating "booms" like the ones in this picture are being used to contain the oil spill. This picture is from Bahrain.
Floating “booms” like the ones in this picture are being used to contain the oil spill.
This picture is from Bahrain.
(Source: U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 2nd Class Cassandra Thompson, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Indonesia has said that this is an emergency. They are working to contain the oil spill. They have put out booms, like floating fences, to try and keep the spilled oil in one place.

The oil spill has also killed or hurt sea life like Irrawaddy dolphins (above) and dugongs.
The oil spill has also killed or hurt sea life like Irrawaddy dolphins (above) and dugongs.
(Source: Stefan Brending, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Groups that want to protect the environment say that this is another example of why people should stop using oil. They point out that not just people have been hurt. Animals like dugongs, dolphins, and other sea animals have been killed by the spill. Some of these animals are protected under Indonesian law.

Balikpapan, Indonesia


View Larger Map
Share:

Settings

Most news on NewsForKids.net is appropriate for all ages. When there is news that may not be suitable for all ages, we try to tag it. You can use the setting below to control whether content tagged in this manner is shown.