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Coping with an Undersea Mud Volcano in Java

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Muddy Justice

Undersea volcanic eruptions can be spectacular. When water, steam and gas heated to 100 degrees break surface great clouds soar upwards. Prolonged eruptions over a wide area can produce new land mass such as Iceland. After the inhabitants managed to harness the geothermal energy resource under their feet, they could heat their homes and warm public mineral baths without harmful emissions. The geothermal activity raised steam to drive electric turbines.

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Less fortunate was the village of Sidoarjo in East Java. In May, 2006, the volcano they call LUSI erupted to spew about 50,000 cubic meters of toxic mud every day much of it deposited as mud flows over the landscape. These flows now have spread over 7 square kilometers displacing 30,000 local people. So far, the estimated damages total $3.5 billions.

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The origin of LUSI is the subject of controversy. Some experts claim it was a natural disaster. LUSI lies on a fault line subject to various upheavals. Fault lines follow the coincidence of tectonic plates far beneath the earth's surface. Each plate moves very slowly, but it can be the size of a continent. The fantastic weight can build tremendous pressure at the plate junctures. A slight movement can release mountains of molten lava from below the plates. LUSI's eruption threw sea mud into the air.

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Others say that an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 relates to LUSI. It hit the south coast of Java just two days before the LUSI eruption began. It killed more people than the eruption over 6200 and displaced 1.5 million. The earthquake could have been a trigger for the mud volcano's eruption.

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Born a month before Pearl Harbor, I attended world events from an early age. My first words included Mussolini, Patton, Sahara and Patton. At age three I was a regular listener to Lowell Thomas. My mom was an industrial nurse a member of the (more...)

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