Fire at oil well in Indonesia’s Aceh kills at least 15

The cause of the explosion is unknown, but local police say the area is known for illegal drilling.

Indonesia oil well fire
The fire broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning [Antara Foto/Maulana/Reuters]

At least 15 people have been killed and dozens others injured after an unregulated oil well in western Indonesia burst into flames.

The incident took place in the northwestern region of Aceh during the early hours on Wednesday. 

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the well in Pasi Putih village in the east of Aceh province ignited about 1:30am (18:30 GMT). Five nearby houses were burned in the inferno.

He said the well, drilled to a depth of about 250 metres, was gushing when it ignited and many people were around it trying to collect the oil.

“The well was ‘traditional’ and it was owned by none and was used by the local community in the Pasi Putih village of the eastern Aceh province,” he added.

Aceh has substantial natural resources of oil and natural gas. There are many illegal wells throughout the areas.  

“I woke up when a very loud explosion shook our house like an earthquake,” a resident in the area told the Associated Press.

“All our neighbours ran out to see what happened, but another loud explosion made everyone run away in panic,” she said.

Dozens of people were taken to hospital in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, several hours away, the agency said, adding that state oil firm Pertamina was providing equipment to help fight the fire.

The exact cause of the explosion is unknown, but the head of police in the area said the oil well might have been drilled illegally and the fire might have been started when someone was smoking a cigarette.

Such illegal drilling is common in Aceh, where state-run oil and natural gas company Pertamina operates an oil field. 

Source: News Agencies