Hundreds evacuated as Pertamina fire kills at least 17 in Jakarta

Probe continues to find out the cause of the fire, but the energy company says a pipe leak was detected before the fire.

A resident reacts as he visits his neighbourhood in Jakarta after a fire
A resident reacts as he visits his neighbourhood affected by the fire [Willy Kurniawan/Reuters]

Residents have searched through the remains of their charred homes after a fuel storage depot fire in Jakarta killed at least 17 people, including two children.

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

Sixty people were injured, with many severely burned, while hundreds more living in residential areas near the depot had to be evacuated.

The North Jakarta Red Cross said 342 people had been evacuated and that four tents were set up for the displaced.

Three people were still missing after the blaze, with Indonesian officials the next day calling for an audit of “all fuel facilities and infrastructures” in the country.

An aerial view of a residential area, after fire broke out at a fuel storage station operated by Indonesia's state energy company Pertamina
An aerial view of a residential area, after fire broke out at a fuel storage station operated by Indonesia’s state energy company Pertamina, in Jakarta [Antara Foto/Muhammad Adimadja/via Reuters]

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin visited the scene on Saturday and confirmed 17 people were killed and 60 more injured.

He suggested the depot should be moved away from residential neighbourhoods.

“I hope this depot can be relocated … so it will be safer and this area will be rearranged so it meets the requirements of a proper neighbourhood in the capital,” he told reporters.

Footage broadcast on Friday night showed people screaming and fleeing through narrow roads with an inferno lighting up the sky behind them.

A fireball could be seen across the skyline of north Jakarta with sirens wailing in the background.

Abdul Syukur, who also lives nearby, told Kompas TV that residents said they could smell the fuel about 30 minutes before the fire.

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

Another witness, Swastono Aji, told AFP news agency that the smell “was so strong that we could hardly breathe”.

“We were leaving this area when we suddenly heard a very loud explosion.”

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 burned-out cars in Plumpang [Aditya Aji / AFP]

‘Mini apocalypse’

“It was like a bomb, like a mini apocalypse. It was unimaginable,” witness Jamilul Asror, 45, told AFP, calling on authorities to relocate residents farther away.

National Police chief Listyo Sigit, speaking at the site, said at least three people were still missing.

Top officials have called for a probe into the fire’s cause and an audit of the country’s energy facilities after several recent blazes.

“After we had multiple fires … it is clear that we must audit all fuel facilities and infrastructures, especially tanks and refineries,” Sugeng Suparwoto, head of the parliament’s energy commission, told local broadcaster Metro TV on Saturday.

In 2021, a massive blaze broke out at the Balongan refinery in West Java, also owned by Pertamina.

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.

The morning after the blaze, homes stacked up against the barbed-wire fences of the Pertamina facility were gutted and blackened, with rows of cars burned out.

Source: News Agencies