Sidoarjo Mudflow
Sidoarjo Mudflow in 2007
Authorities in East Java have raised the alert level for the mudflow spewing from an underground volcano in Sidoarjo after nearby dikes nearly failed.

The mudflow has destroyed hundreds of homes, swamped 720 hectares of land and displaced more than 11,000 people since it began erupting in late May 2006.

"The situation is alarming," said Achmad Khusaeri, a spokesman for the Sidoarjo Mudflow Mitigation Agency (BPLS), adding that the underground volcano had begun to erupt again after lying virtually dormant for years.

The mudflow had fallen from an average of 100,000 cubic meters per day in 2009 to 13,000 cubic meters per day last year.

Achmad said the authorities had added another meter to the height of the dikes as well as reinforcing them with rocks held together by chicken wire. BPLS officers are also monitoring the dikes 24 hours a day.

Dwi Arisanto, an official at state railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia, said tracks along the disaster-hit area were being reinforced.

"We are also limiting train speeds to no more than 20 kilometers per hour," he said.

East Java Governor Sukarwo said the surge was happening in eastern Sidoarjo, while in the west the mudflow had receded.

The provincial government, he said, was channeling the surging mud to the area's less-populated south.

Sukarwo added that rain could also worsen the surging mudflow and cause the dikes to weaken.

The governor visited the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, urging the central government to push Minarak Lapindo Jaya, the holding company of the gas drilling operation that is widely blamed for the mudflow, to expedite its compensation scheme.

Under the scheme, residential land was valued at Rp 1 million ($113) per square meter, while farmland was valued at Rp 120,000 per square meter. However, Sukarwo said Lapindo had only paid compensation for 72 percent of the inundated lands, adding that he urged the company to pay for at least 80 percent by the end of the year.

"I will let the president, vice president and the ministers push for the compensation and I will try to calm down the people," the governor said.

Sukarwo said Lapindo should disburse all of its compensation by April next year. Three villages are now completely submerged by the mudflow.

Separately, Public Works Minister Djoko Kirmanto said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was expanding the area deemed to be devastated by the disaster.

The minister said that on Monday, there would be nine neighborhoods that would be added to the compensation scheme, costing an additional Rp 1 trillion to Rp 2 trillion.