Fire at Indonesian oil depot kills 17; thousands evacuated
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A large fire broke out at a fuel storage depot in Indonesia’s capital Friday, killing at least 17 people, injuring dozens of others and forcing the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents after spreading to their neighborhood, officials said.
The Plumpang fuel storage station, operated by 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.
At least 260 firefighters and 52 fire engines were struggling to contain the blaze in the nearby neighborhood, fire officials said.
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 and firefighters battled the blaze.
A preliminary investigation showed the fire broke out when a pipeline ruptured during heavy rain, possibly from a lightning strike, said Eko Kristiawan, Pertamina’s area manager.
He said the fire would not disrupt the country’s fuel supply.
The acting Jakarta Governor Heru Budi Hartono, said about 600 displaced people were being taken to temporary shelters at several government offices and a sport stadium.
Satriadi Gunawan, who heads Jakarta’s fire and rescue department, said at least 17 people were dead, including two children, and 50 had been hospitalized, some with severe burns.
“The fire caused several explosions and quickly spread to residential houses,” Gunawan said.
Indonesia’s minister of State-Owned Enterprises, Erick Thohir, expressed condolences to the victims and their families and ordered Pertamina to thoroughly investigate the fire and focus on quickly assisting the community.
“There must be an operational evaluation in the future. I’ll continue to monitor this case,” Thohir said in a video statement.
Friday’s fire was the second large blaze at the Plumpang fuel depot. In 2014, a fire engulfed at least 40 nearby houses, but no casualties were reported.
Fahmi Radhi, an energy analyst from Gajah Mada University, urged Pertamina and the government to immediately move the depot away from the nearby community settlements.
“Pertamina has been negligent by not using international standard security systems,” he said in an interview with KOMPAS TV. He said that since the 2014 fire there had been no efforts to put such a system in place and that regular inspections should be conducted to avoid future fires.
“Pertamina’s board of directors should be held responsible for this deadly fire by being dismissed immediately,” Radhi said.
An oil spill in 2018 caused a fire that killed five people and sickened hundreds in the port city of Balikpapan. Authorities said it came from a broken pipe that Pertamina was using to transfer crude oil.
In March 2021, a fire at Cilacap gasoline storage facility at the largest oil refinery on the main island of Java prompted the evacuation of 80 nearby residents and injured at least 20 people. Cilacap is one of six Pertamina refineries with a processing capacity of 270,000 barrels a day. Eight months later, more than 900 people were evacuated after a fire broke out at the Pertamina Balongan Refinery in West Java province.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini contributed to this report.