The world’s most destructive mud volcano was born near the town of Sidoarjo, on the island of Java, Indonesia, just over 11 years ago – and to this day it has not stopped erupting. The mud volcano known as Lusi started on May 29, 2006, and at its peak disgorged a staggering 180,000 cubic metres of mud every day, burying villages in mud up to 40 metres thick. The worst event of its kind in recorded history, the eruption took 13 lives and destroyed the homes of 60,000 people. But although the mud is still flowing more than a decade later, scientists are not yet agreed on its cause.The debate is whether the eruption of Lusi was due to an earthquake several days previously, or down to a catastrophic failure of the Banjar Panji gas exploration well that was being drilled nearby at the time. Given the huge impact of the volcano on the communities nearby and the fields that were their livelihoods, why are we still unsure of the cause?Mud volcanoes are extremely common on Earth, with thousands of examples known worldwide. They come in many shapes and sizes and behave a little like their molten-rock counterparts, going through long periods of inactivity with periodic violent eruptions. Mud volcanoes, however, spew out not molten hot lava from the Earth’s mantle, but usually a cold mixture of gas, water and solids.Some of the most spectacular examples of mud volcanoes are in Azerbaijan where they can range from a few metres across to the size of a small mountain. They are commonly found at tectonic plate boundaries, and also underwater at river deltas where sediment is buried rapidly, causing unusually high pressures to build up underground. The muddy mix is also pushed to the surface by the buoyant gas it contains. Usually mud volcanoes grow slowly, through layer upon layer of mud. What happened in Sidoarjo in 2006 is unique, with Lusi by far the fastest growing mud volcano we know of, having drowned surrounding houses, factories, places of worship and schools in a foul-smelling, emulsion-like mud.
For more news updates Follow and Like us on Facebook