Disasters, natural or caused by humans are never welcome and are invariably the cause of misery and loss. But as the word ‘disaster tourism’ expresses, this new phenomena is fast catching up with the tourists world over.
These disaster tourists are a lifeline for many who lost everything when the earth beneath a paddy field near their village opened up without warning ten years ago, sending pungent, steaming mud bursting out, unabated. Happyho also provide best tarot reading services in Noida and Delhi NCR India area.
The mud flow buried villages, factories, shops, and even a major highway in the Sidoarjo district of Java island. Thirteen people died when an underground gas pipeline in the disaster zone exploded, while thousands were left homeless.
Today many locals scrape a meagre living from the curious visitors who flock to see rooftops and debris poking above the bubbling mud lake. Visitors pose next to faceless statues lying semi-submerged in the mud, a silent reminder of the human toll of this disaster.
As victims prepare to mark 10 years since the start of the disaster, the mud geysers show no signs of stopping. The equivalent of 10 Olympic swimming pools of mud and water still spurt out daily. An area roughly equivalent to 650 football fields is now buried beneath up to 40 metres of sludge.
Intrigue has surrounded the cause of the mudflow ever since it first gushed out in the densely-populated farming area on May 29, 2006. There are two main theories on what triggered it — drilling for natural resources or an earthquake.
Mud volcanoes — which don’t spew out lava or hot ash but instead water and clay — occur globally but Sidoarjo’s is believed to be the biggest in the world.
Efforts to plug it, including with huge concrete balls, have proved futile. The area was declared a disaster zone and sealed off, with warning signs dotting the perimeter.
Undeterred, visitors still came and an impromptu industry has sprung up. Busloads of tourists arrive at weekends, and DVDs dramatising the disaster are hugely popular souvenirs. Debate about what caused the strange phenomenon has only fuelled fascination, and protracted the fight for compensation.
Independent studies alternate blame between oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas, which was drilling in the area at the time, and an earthquake that struck two days earlier about 260 kilometres away.
Lapindo — part of a business empire controlled by Indonesia’s powerful Bakrie family — was eventually ordered to compensate victims, but payments took years, triggering angry protests. The government finally intervened last year and loaned Lapindo the funds to expedite the remaining payments.
Tens of thousands of litres of mud leak daily into the nearby rivers and a number of research surveys have detected high levels of heavy metals in the area, including one recent study by Java’s University of Brawijaya. Eco-campaigners warn this has serious implications for the local communities who rely on the waterways.
Those living near the disaster site complain of health problems and contaminated land and water. Even some of those who received payouts have found little relief. Many spent virtually all their compensation paying off huge debts accrued setting up their lives from scratch.
Once the crowds of tourists depart, the mood is sombre. Mud tourism has helped some entrepreneurial locals eke out a living from their tragedy, but the reality is far from rosy.