( dpa )- Thousands of Indonesians left homeless by an uncontrollable mud flow caused by an industrial accident staged a protest Wednesday, demanding an immediate solution to the problem.
More than 4,000 people from seven villages marched to the district office in Sidoardjo , about 650 kilometres east of Jakarta, urging an Indonesian company responsible for the drilling accident to pay the remaining 80 per cent of compensation to the victims.
The protestors rejected an offer by the company to relocate them, choosing cash compensation instead, the Jakarta-based Elshinta private radio reported.
More than 15,000 people have been displaced since late May 2006, when the firm PT Lapindo Brantas apparently hit an underground mud volcano while drilling a gas well at a depth of 3,000 metres .
The oozing sludge, which has caused Indonesia's worst environmental disaster, has spread over more than 600 hectares and inundated villages, factories, railway tracks and toll roads.
Protestor leader Djoko Suprastowo said they wanted the local Sidoardjo government to pressure Lapindo to immediately pay compensation for their destroyed property and houses. He accused the company of bad faith, saying that the majority of victims have only received 20 per cent of the total compensation.
"We haven't seen any sign of goodwill from the government and PT Lapindo in resolving the mud-flow problem," Suprastowo was quoted as saying. "We want all of the other 80 per cent compensation to be paid as soon as possible."
The government's attempts to halt the mud flow by building a network of dams, channelling some of the mud into the sea, dropping huge concrete balls into the crater - and even using paranormals claiming to possess magic powers - have all failed.
Lapindo , controlled by the family of business tycoon and politician Aburizal Bakrie , the welfare minister, was accused of not installing mandatory safety casings in the lower section of the drill hole, which would have prevented the mud from escaping.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono twice last year ordered Lapindo to pay more than 420 million dollars for property compensation to the victims and for mud-containment efforts, but the company has failed to do so.
Bakrie has insisted that the initial mud blowout was a "natural disaster" triggered by an earthquake in Central Java two days beforehand, a claim discounted by international geologists.
Police investigators say Lapindo may be criminally negligent because it failed to install safety casings at the lower depths of the drilling shaft to prevent leakage. Several company officials are under investigation in connection with the case.
East Java police authorities indicated recently that further legal action against Lampindo officials maybe halted for lack of evidence, a move sparked criticism from lawmakers and legal experts.
Yudhoyono last year established a permanent government agency to deal with long-term social and infrastructure issues caused by the disaster, replacing an emergency management team criticized for a lack of action.
Under the new scheme, the government would be responsible for covering costs related to the disaster's social impact on people living just outside the swamped areas, but Lapindo must pay the costs of containing and stopping the mud flow as well as compensating the people left homeless.