Indonesian protesters pour 700 kg of mud outside welfare ministry to protest torrent

Protesters dumped a truckload of mud outside Indonesia's welfare ministry Wednesday to demand more help for thousands of people affected by a mud flow that swamped a large swath of Java island.

The sludge was collected from the torrent, which began surging from the ground four months after an accident at a gas well owned by a company linked to the family of Welfare Minister Aburizal Bakrie.

It has since swamped four villages and sent more than 10,000 people fleeing from their homes. Some 270 hectares (665 acres) of land have been inundated or abandoned because of safety reasons.

"This is out of control and not enough is being done to stop it," said Emmy Hafild, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the environmental group that held the protest. "Bakrie should not run away from his responsibilities."

Police say they plan to file criminal charges against nine employees from Lapindo Brantas over the disaster, alleging its drilling activities triggered the mud and that it failed to respond to the torrent in the correct way.

The company says seismic activity might have caused the mud to break the surface.

Police did not try to stop the protesters from pouring about 700 kilograms (1,540 pounds) of mud on the sidewalk outside the ministry. Some of the demonstrators carried a banner saying "Stop your mud Mr. Bakrie or your mud will stop you!"

Bakrie, who is also one of Indonesia's wealthiest businessmen, has been quoted as saying the mud flow was not his responsibility. The family company, Lapindo Brantas, has paid emergency payments to the homeless and is building an ever-expanding network of dams to contain the mud.

Geologists fear the so-called mud volcano may be unstoppable, meaning those people already made homeless and possibly thousands more still threatened by the mud may have to be permanently relocated, reports AP.

Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said Tuesday the president would likely decide to pipe the mud into the sea, despite concerns it may disturb marine life. Tests have shown the mud is not especially dangerous to human health.

"Do we want to save humans or fish?" Kirmanto told reporters. "If we choose saving fish, it means that more villages will sink."