Call for safety checks as fuel storage fire kills 13 in Indonesia

Two children are among the victims and 50 other people have been admitted to hospital, some with severe burns, fire official says.

Two men look at burnt cars in Plumpang, north Jakarta on March 4, 2023, after a fire at a nearby state-run fuel storage depot run by energy firm Pertamina. (Photo by ADITYA AJI / AFP)
Two men look at burnt cars in Plumpang, north Jakarta on March 4, 2023, after a huge fire at a nearby fuel storage depot run by state-owned energy firm Pertamina [Aditya Aji/AFP]

Indonesian officials have called for an investigation and an audit of state energy company Pertamina’s facilities after a fire at its fuel storage station killed 13 people.

The fire, which started at around 8pm (01:00 GMT) on Friday from a fuel pipe at Pertamina’s Plumpang fuel storage depot in the capital Jakarta, quickly spread to nearby houses and sent residents in the densely populated area into a panic.

Authorities initially put the death toll at 17 but revised it later to 13. Dozens were injured and hundreds were evacuated. The fire had been extinguished by early morning hours on Saturday, North Jakarta firefighter official Abdul Wahid said.

“I have ordered Pertamina to immediately investigate this case thoroughly,” the Minister of State-Owned Enterprise Erick Thohir said via his Instagram page.

“There must be an operational review,” he added.

Sugeng Suparwoto, who heads the country’s parliamentary energy committee, called for an audit of all of Pertamina’s facilities.

“All facilities, whether refineries or storage, must be audited again,” he said on KompasTV, noting that Pertamina often had fire incidents at its facilities. Sugeng also said there should be a bigger distance between Pertamina’s storage depots and residential areas.

“For a facility with Plumpang’s capacity, there should be at least one to two kilometres distance with residential area,” he said.

Plumpang, with a storage capacity of more than 300,000 kilolitres, is one of Pertamina’s biggest fuel terminals.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a fuel storage station operated by Indonesia's state energy company Pertamina
Firefighters battle the fire at Pertamina’s fuel depot in Jakarta [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Local residents said they could smell the fuel about 30 minutes before the fire broke out, Abdul Syukur, who lives nearby, told KompasTV.

“The smell was so strong there were people throwing up and some nearly fainted,” he said.

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.

While the station supplies 25 percent of Indonesia’s fuel needs, he said the fire would not disrupt the country’s fuel supply.

Thohir, the minister, expressed his condolences to the victims and their families. Pertamina’s chief executive officer, Nicke Widyawati, also apologised for the fire and said the company would “reflect internally to avoid similar incidents from ever occurring again”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies