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Fire at West Java ammo dump raises safety questions

Jakarta Post - April 1, 2024

Radhiyya Indra, Jakarta – A series of explosions and an ensuing fire at a military ammunition depot in West Java over the weekend have raised safety questions regarding the stockpiling of expired munitions, following a similar incident at a police warehouse in East Java in March.

The fire broke out at an Army ammunition depot in Ciangsana, Bogor regency, West Java, after explosions ripped through the facility at around 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The blaze damaged the depot, which was used to store expired ammunition and was located in a warehouse complex managed by the Jakarta Military Command (Kodam Jaya)

The flames were extinguished by 4 a.m. on Sunday after 13 fire trucks and 40 firefighters were deployed to the location. Firefighters reportedly also used robotic cars to help put out the blaze.

No casualties were reported, according to Kodam Jaya chief Maj. Gen. Mohamad Hasan.

Nearby residents were evacuated to safer places. Most reportedly returned home on Sunday morning.

Hasan said a preliminary analysis suggested that unstable expired ammunition might have caused the explosion. The Indonesian Military (TNI) was looking into the matter, he added.

"Munitions usually have a 10-year lifespan, [...] and when they expire, they become unstable and sensitive to friction," he said on Sunday, Kompas TV reported.

The commander said the ammunition had been scheduled to be disposed of in the coastal Pameungpeuk subdistrict in Garut regency, West Java, before it exploded.

Shells and other projectiles reportedly blasted through the air and landed in the surrounding areas. The TNI has urged people not to touch any materials from the explosion as they could still be hazardous.

Safety concerns

The fire has raised concerns about the safety of ammunition depots and the maintenance and storage of unstable, aging explosive materials, particularly in facilities that are in close proximity to residential areas.

Military expert and Center for Intermestic and Diplomatic Engagement (CIDE) head Anton Aliabbas pointed out that this was not the first explosion in the country to have been caused by expired ammunition.

"Seeing as this keeps occurring, there needs to be a full evaluation regarding the standards of ammunition management, especially those that are expiring," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

In 2019, one person was injured in a series of explosions at the Central Java Police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) depot after a temperature change caused decades-old bombs to explode.

In March of this year, explosive materials stored at a warehouse in Surabaya belonging to the East Java Police's Brimob Gegana bomb squad went off.

Ten police officers were injured in the blast, but no deaths were reported.

East Java Police head Insp. Gen. Imam Sugianto said at the time that the Gegana bomb squad did not have a proper warehouse to store the explosive materials, official police communications arm tribratanews reported.

Khairul Fahmi, a military expert and cofounder of the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS), said the warehouses required further investigation.

"We need to make sure that the storage [of aging ammunition is] updated through time because a depot that was considered safe years ago might be more susceptible to risks now," he said.

Khairul said an untidy warehouse could have contributed to the expired ammunition becoming unstable and exploding.

Source: https://asianews.network/fire-at-west-java-ammo-dump-raises-safety-questions