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Indonesian Mud Flow Halts Briefly After Nine Months

Indonesian officials say hot mud that has been spewing out of the ground for more than nine months has stopped briefly for the first time, raising hopes that efforts to plug the geyser are working.

The mud volcano, located near the city of Surabaya in East Java province, shut down for about 30-minutes on Monday.

Engineers have been dropping hundreds of large concrete balls into the mouth of the geyser since last month, hoping to reduce the flow of mud. There is no scientific guarantee the technique will work.

Scalding mud began pouring from the earth late last May, following exploratory gas drilling near the site. Some blame the company for the disaster.

Scientists say an earthquake that occurred in Yogyakarta, about 280 kilometers away, two days before the flow began may be to blame.

Executives at Lapindo Brantas are under investigation. The company has paid some money to help those who have been displaced by the mud flows. It insists its payments are not an admission of guilt.

The mud flow has forced at least 15,000 people to relocate and buried entire villages, factories and fields.

Officials say the rising mud, already 16 meters deep, is threatening to breach emergency dikes and requires constant attention to manage.