Indonesia fire: More than a dozen people dead after huge blaze at depot in Jakarta

People inspect the damage at their neighborhood following a fuel depot fire in Jakarta. Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

At least 18 people have died after a huge fire spread at a fuel storage depot in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

The Plumpang fuel storage station, operated by state-run oil and gas company Pertamina, is near a densely populated area in the Tanah Merah neighbourhood in North Jakarta. It supplies 25% of Indonesia’s fuel needs. At least 260 firefighters and 52 fire engines extinguished the blaze just before midnight on Friday after it tore through the neighbourhood for more than two hours, fire officials said. Footage showed hundreds of people running in panic as thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames filled the sky.

Collapsed houses in a neighbourhood affected by the fuel depot fire in Jakarta. Credit: AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana

On Saturday, Indonesian rescuers and firefighters searched for more than a dozen missing under the rubble of collapsed houses and buildings.

About 49 people were receiving treatment in five hospitals, some of them in critical condition.

National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said more than 1,300 people were displaced and taking shelter in 10 government offices, a Red Cross command post and a sports stadium. He said investigators were still working to establish the cause of the fire and questioning dozens of witnesses.

Firefighters inspect the ruins of houses destroyed in a fire in Jakarta, Credit: AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim

Pertamina’s head Nicke Widyawati said the company would provide help to the community and cooperate in the investigation. “We will carry out a thorough evaluation and reflection internally to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Widyawati said in a statement, adding that the company ensured the safe supply of fuel oil.

A preliminary investigation suggested the fire broke out when a pipeline ruptured during heavy rain, possibly triggered by a lightning strike, according to Eko Kristiawan, Pertamina’s area manager for the western part of Java.

In 2014, a fire at the same fuel depot engulfed at least 40 houses, but no casualties were reported. Indonesia’s State Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir told reporters the incident showed the Plumpang area is not safe for the community, and the government is planning to move the fuel storage depot to Tanjung Priok port in northern Jakarta.

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