Hundreds of police, military members, students and other volunteers have been scrambling to clean up beaches in and around Balikpapan, a city in Indonesia’s East Kalimantan province, following an oil spill last weekend.
The spill and subsequent fire has claimed at least five lives and forced city officials to declare a state of emergency. The Indonesian government says it is investigating the cause of the spill, but alleges the oil came from a Chinese ship that caught fire in Balikpapan Bay on Saturday.
“The five victims were fishing. They were allegedly trapped in flames and drowned while trying to save themselves,” a volunteer who asked to remain anonymous told BenarNews.
Pertamina, the Indonesian state-owned oil and natural gas corporation, has assigned four ships to clean the spill, which covers an estimated 1.5 miles (2.4 km). A company spokesman said Pertamina did not process this type of oil at its East Kalimantan refinery, adding that tests showed it was ship or marine fuel.
Meanwhile, Balikpapan Mayor Rahmad Mas’ud praised the efforts of volunteers and Pertamina.
“Our cooperation will succeed in cleaning up this oil waste. In four days we will remove the emergency status, I am sure,” Rahmad told reporters.