That was the day the first residents began complaining about Lapindo, the day they first witnessed stinking, hot mud shooting from the earth 180 meters (590 feet) from the drilling rig. Lapindo personnel calmly informed the concerned residents that these kinds of events are not unusual in the oil and gas exploration business, and that the geysers would soon subside of their own accord.
So far the mud has claimed 20 factories, 15 mosques, a cemetery and 18 schools. It has closed a section of the main road to Bali and is only a few meters away from flooding an important rail line. Authorities have already declared eight villages partly or completely uninhabitable. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated. But this is only the beginning.
Haji Hasan, the chairman of one of the lost villages, has turned to a thoroughly unscientific approach to saving the region. He has offered a reward of 100 million rupiahs, or about €8,400 ($10,840), for anyone who can convince the spirits to make the mud stop flowing.
More than 100 magicians, shamans and witches have responded to his appeal, much to the chagrin of local imams. For weeks the collection of sorcerers cast their spells on the volcano. One was an elderly woman who presented herself to the mud as the "Queen of Bali" and ordered it to stop flowing immediately.
I wonder if Indonesia's criminal code has an "Unlawful Volcanoe Creation" statute.