Indonesia fuel depot fire death toll rises to 33


JAKARTA, March 24, 2023 (AFP): The death toll from a fire at an Indonesian fuel storage depot run by state energy firm Pertamina has risen to 33 with nearly a dozen more in critical condition, health authorities said Friday.

Top officials called for an audit of Indonesia's energy facilities after the March 3 blaze ripped through a nearby residential area, gutting houses and burning cars next to the depot in capital Jakarta.

"As of today, 33 people in total have died and 11 are still being treated. They are in the ICU and their condition is serious," Jakarta health agency spokesman Luigi, who like many Indonesians has one name, told AFP Friday.

Authorities previously gave a death toll of 18 the day after the explosion.

Thousands of people were forced to evacuate when the fire broke out but the local disaster mitigation agency said all evacuees have since left shelters.

Witnesses likened the fire to a bomb blast after an initial explosion sent panicked locals screaming and fleeing through narrow roads with the fireball lighting up the Jakarta skyline behind them.

In response, Pertamina apologised and one of its directors was removed from his post.

The state-owned firm said a pipe leak had been detected before the fire started.

But criticism over the blast has forced the government to consider relocating the facility or the residents who live next to it.

President Joko Widodo visited survivors and called on Jakarta's governor and ministers to find a solution to fuel depots located near residential areas to avoid a repeat disaster.

Pertamina's director Nicke Widyawati told reporters last week the depot could not be relocated immediately as it may disrupt the national fuel supply.

The fire was one of several that have broken out at the company's facilities in recent years.

A massive blaze broke out in 2021 at the Balongan refinery in West Java, also owned by Pertamina and one of Indonesia's biggest such facilities.

That same depot saw fires in 2009 and again in 2014, when the flames spread to 40 houses nearby. No casualties were reported in either of those cases. - AFP

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