Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – At least 22 workers were injured and tens of other crew members trapped when crude oil tanker Jag Leela exploded into flames at Belawan Port in Medan, North Sumatra, on Monday morning.
The injured victims were immediately rushed to the nearest hospitals, while those who were trapped inside the burning vessel awaited assistance from a search and rescue team.
The explosion occurred when the ship was about to dock at the Waruna Shipyard in the port, according to the Transportation Ministry's Indonesian Coast and Sea Guard (KPLP).
Khaidir, a 27-year-old ship worker who was at the port around the time of the incident, said he heard the sounds of an explosion and saw a column of thick smoke rising from the oil tanker at 8:30 a.m. He immediately ran away from the fire to save himself.
"I heard multiple explosions from the ship. Then I saw fire and smoke soon after," he told The Jakarta Post.
Local authorities struggled to put out the resulting flames until 3 p.m. as the remaining oil stored in the ship's cargo had caught fire, the police said.
"We still couldn't go anywhere near [the scene], because the ship is still on fire. We will [deploy personnel] once the fire has been extinguished to put up police lines, and to search for any remaining victims," Belawan Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dayan told the press on Monday afternoon.
Based on preliminary reports, at least 22 people sustained burns from the fire and had since been given medical treatment, he said.
"All of the injured victims are currently being treated at Prima Cipta Husada Hospital and Navy Hospital," Dayan said, adding that the authorities were still unable to confirm any casualties.
"We are still investigating the cause of the fire," he said.
KPLP director Ahmad said in a statement that several local stakeholders were involved in the evacuation, including the Belawan Port Authority, state-owned port operator Pelindo I and the Belawan Fire and Rescue Agency.
"Three ships helped extinguish the flames from the sea," Ahmad said, adding that the ships belonged to Pelindo I and PT Waruna Nusa Sentana. (rfa)