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Death toll from Indonesia pipeline blast climbs to 10

Two more bodies found near the scene of a gas pipeline explosion in Indonesia's East Java province.

india Updated: Nov 24, 2006 09:56 IST

Two more bodies were found on Friday near the scene of a gas pipeline explosion in Indonesia's East Java province which was linked to a devastating mudflow, pushing the deathtoll from the incident to 10.

"Rescuers found two more dead bodies this morning and we are currently preparing the identification and autopsy of those bodies," Sukamto Kasmuri, director of the main hospital in the East Java regency of Sidoarjo, told reporters.

The blast late on Wednesday, which disrupted gas operations in the region covered by state oil company Pertamina's East Java Gas Pipeline, occurred in the area where hot mud has been gushing unchecked from near the Banjar Panji exploratory gas well since the end of May following a drilling accident.

The pipeline was located underneath sand-and-gravel dykes made to contain the mud. The transmission pipe broke after land subsidence hiked the pressure, igniting some of the gas.

The mudflow has inundated several villages, dozens of factories and swathes of paddy and sugarcane field, causing an unfolding environmental disaster in Sidoarjo, an industrial suburb of Surabaya, Indonesia's second largest city and port.

With the discovery of the bodies, rescuers are searching for two more missing people officials said could have fallen into one of the pools of hot mud.

The dead and missing due to the blast were soldiers or site workers assigned to help contain the mud.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday ordered the total closure of the 440-hectare (1,090 acre) area affected by the mudflow, saying it was considered a dangerous area.

Local media reported soldiers would be stationed to block public entry to that area.

More than 10,000 people have been displaced so far by the mud, gushing at a rate of 50,000 cubic metres (1.75 million cubic feet) a day from the well.

The Banjar Panji well was operated by Indonesia's Lapindo Brantas, a unit of PT Energi Mega Persada, partly owned by the Bakrie Group, which is controlled by the family of Indonesia's chief social welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie.

The firm has denied the mud flow is directly linked to the drilling operation.

First Published: Nov 24, 2006 09:17 IST