JAKARTA, April 5 (Xinhua) -- Indonesian authorities on Thursday initiated joint efforts to handle the oil spill problem in East Kalimantan province's Balikpapan waters following a leak in crude oil pipe belonged to state-run oil and gas firm Pertamina.
Head of Research and Human Resource at Indonesia's Marine and Fishery Ministry Zulficar Mochtar said the massive oil spill incident in Balikpapan waters has immensely hurt the ecosystem, economy and livelihoods of local fishermen.
"We cannot solve this problem alone, we need to find collective solution. The efforts would be beyond beach cleaning," Mochtar said on Thursday, adding that his ministry would team up with other related ministries and agencies to address the Balikpapan oil spill issue.
He said that teams involved in the operation would use the "oil boom' equipments of oil companies around the location. With the equipments, the spilled oil can be localized and herded to the area around the Pertamina facility. This process may take around three days, he added.
After its initial denial related to the fire in Balikpapan waters on Saturday, Pertamina finally admitted that the oil spill was originated from its leaked crude oil pipe.
Pertamina Balikpapan General Manager Togar MP said that the leak was discovered on Tuesday after his subordinates scanned the pipelines with sonar system.
The Indonesian Environmental and Forestry Ministry assigned three director generals to launch investigations into the case which has seriously polluted the environment around the waters.
They would check the oil firms' standard operating procedures and their alertness in dealing with the pollution issue in the sea, calculating the losses caused by the incident and ensuring the legal consequences.
In another development, Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said that the area polluted by the oil spill has spread to almost 13,000 hectares in Balikpapan waters.
BNPB Spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that fvie fishermen were killed in the oil spill fire when they were fishing in the affected waters on Saturday.
Sutopo said on Thursday that the oil spill has seriously polluted 60 km of the coastline in Balikpapan beach.
"It polluted the beach ecosystem, including 34 hectares of mangroves. People suffered from nausea and headache due to the black smoke originated from the burned crude oil. The incident also risks the wellbeing of endangered dugong species," he said in a statement.
The Balikpapan administration declared a state of emergency on Monday related to the oil spill, advising residents to stay away from the coast.