17 dead in Indonesia fuel depot fire

Streaming HUBMarch 3, 2023

A major fire broke out at a fuel storage depot in the Indonesian capital on Friday, killing at least 17 people, injuring dozens of others and forcing the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents, officials said.

The Plumpang fuel storage station, operated by the state-run oil and gas company Pertamina, is near a densely populated area in the Tanah Merah neighborhood in North Jakarta. It supplies 25% of Indonesia’s fuel needs.

Fire officials said at least 260 firefighters and 52 fire engines were battling to bring the blaze under control in the nearby area.

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Video of the fire broadcast on television showed hundreds of people in the community running in panic, while thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames filled the sky as firefighters brought the blaze under control.

Pertamina area manager Eko Kristiawan said preliminary investigations suggested the fire was caused by a burst pipeline during heavy rains, possibly due to lightning.

He said the fire would not disrupt the country’s fuel supply.

Jakarta’s acting governor Heru Budi Hartono said about 600 displaced people were being moved to temporary shelters at several government offices and a sports stadium.

A fire at a fuel depot in Jakarta, Indonesia, has killed 17 people, prompting thousands to be evacuated from the area.

A fire at a fuel depot in Jakarta, Indonesia, has killed 17 people, prompting thousands to be evacuated from the area. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

At least 17 people, including two children, died and 50 were hospitalised, some of them with serious burns, said Satriyadi Gunwan, head of Jakarta’s fire and rescue department.

“The fire caused multiple explosions and quickly spread to residential houses,” Gunawan said.

Indonesia’s Minister of State-Owned Enterprises, Erik Thohir, expressed condolences to the victims and their families and ordered Pertamina to thoroughly investigate the fire and focus on helping the community quickly.

“There should be an operational evaluation in the future. I will continue to monitor this matter,” Thohir said in a video statement.

Friday’s fire was the second major blaze at the Plumpang fuel depot. In 2014, at least 40 houses in the vicinity caught fire, but there were no casualties.

Fahmi Radhi, an energy analyst at Gaza Mada University, urged Pertamina and the government to immediately move the depot away from nearby community settlements.

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Pertamina has been negligent by not using international standard security systems, he said in an interview with Kompas TV. He said no effort had been made to install such a system since the 2014 fire and regular inspections should be done to avoid future fires.

“The board of directors of Pertamina should be immediately sacked and held responsible for this fatal fire,” Radhi said.

In 2018, an oil spill caused a fire in the port city of Balikpapan that killed five people and sickened hundreds. Officials said it came from a ruptured pipe that Pertamina was using to move crude.

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In March 2021, a fire broke out at the Cilacap gasoline storage facility at the largest oil refinery on the main island of Java, leaving 80 nearby residents evacuated and at least 20 injured. Silacap is one of six Pertamina refineries with a processing capacity of 270,000 barrels per day. Eight months later, more than 900 people were evacuated after a fire broke out at the Pertmina Bolonggan refinery in West Java province.

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