Sidoarjo, East Java. Another bubble has emerged on the Porong highway near Sidoarjo in East Java after the appearance of gas bubbles and mud in the middle of the highway last week.
The new bubble, near Porong fruit market, is just 80 meters from the earlier one, said Acmad Zulkarnaen, spokesman of the Sidoarjo Mud Flow Mitigation Agency (BPLS).
It is the 169th to appear since the devastating mud flow eruption on May 29, 2006.
The latest fissure contains flammable gas, and its proximity to railway tracks has caused safety concerns among officials.
Herry Winarno, the acting spokesman of state railway company Kereta Api Indonesia (KAI) in East Java, is calling on train passengers not to throw cigarette butts out the window between the Tanggulangin area of Sidoarjo and Porong.
“This prohibition was issued to anticipate unwanted situations because those bubbles are easily flammable,” Herry said.
The earlier bubble, in the middle of the highway, which is the main road linking Surabaya to towns in the east such as Pasuruan and Probolinggo, consists of mud and gas. An analysis by the BPLS showed that the gas contained methane.
“Flammable gas of the methane type was clearly detected,” Achmad said.
He added that the methane content was fluctuating, sometimes exceeding safe levels.
Achmad said possible danger came from the carelessness of road users, who often threw lit cigarette butts out of vehicle windows or lit up anywhere.
“We are coordinating with the police to minimize the danger,” he said.
The BPLS and the Sidoarjo district police have already issued a ban on tossing cigarette butts along the Porong highway.
The areas around the bubbles have been cordoned off from traffic.
The appearance of the bubbles on and around the highway makes it more urgent than ever to press ahead with plans for another highway to connect Siring to Porong.
Achmad said the BBPLS had also told local residents whose land would be needed for the new highway to agree with the price offered by the local district administration so that construction could begin as soon as possible.
“We hope that those people who are still reluctant to release their land soon agree to the price offered by the district administration,” Achmad said.
The Siring-Porong alternative highway was scheduled to be completed this year, but so far only 65 percent of the needed land has been acquired.
The price of the purchase of another 24 hectares has been agreed but the deals have not yet gone ahead.
The seven-kilometer road will need about 124 hectares for completion. Many landowners want more for their land than that being offered by the local administration.
The road that links the Tanggulangin subdistrict in Sidoarjo to Gempol in Pasuruan district through Porong and Jabon will also be upgraded with a 10-meter-wide, 600- meter-long flyover in Porong.