APSN Banner

'There was a fireball': Residents recount events of deadly fuel storage depot blaze in North Jakarta

Channel News Asia - March 6, 2023

Danang Wisanggeni, Wisnu Agung Prasetyo and Asyraf Kamil, Jakarta – Three days after a fire broke out at a fuel storage depot in North Jakarta, Ms Septiana and her family members remained at an evacuation centre on Monday (Mar 6).

Speaking to CNA, Ms Septiana said that it was raining heavily last Friday night when she and her family heard a loud rumble outside her house, located around 100m away from the Pertamina's Plumpang fuel storage depot.

"A family member of mine then shouted from outside saying there was a fire and we should evacuate from the area. We just took our important documents and saw the fire. So we ran away from it as far as we could with our children," the 38-year-old said.

Ms Septiana, who like most Indonesians goes by one name, said that her family smelled something foul like "gas pipe leaks" as they left their house, leaving them feeling nauseous and coughing.

"We were afraid the gas might be poisonous. The area then became enveloped with thick smoke," she recounted.

On Monday, she said that her house was completely destroyed in the fire.

"What's left is just the house frame. All my furniture, all our motorcycles were destroyed ... One of my neighbours died in the blaze, the one beside my house."

For now, she is thankful that she and her family are well-fed and have access to clean water at the evacuation centre. But she is holding out hope to return home and rebuild it.

"We are still waiting for instructions from the higher authorities. What's important is that we get to rebuild our home. It's sad as the holy month of Ramadan is coming up. And then this blaze had to happen," said Ms Septiana.

Mr Sahlan, another resident affected by the blaze, said that he saw a lightning strike on the night of the incident.

"After a while, I saw some sparks in the Pertamina compound ... but there was no fire yet so I still sat around my house.

"Later, when the fire started, I left my house immediately. If I had stayed on to pack my belongings, I would not have made it out," Mr Sahlan, who goes by one name, told CNA, adding that a foul smell filled the air as he left his house.

"There was no warning at all. Suddenly, there was a fireball ... I ran away from my house without taking anything with me at all. Not money nor any of my belongings."

As of Monday morning, about 193 people remained at the evacuation centre, according to Mr Syarief Hidayutallah, the deputy secretary for the North Jakarta region of the Indonesian Red Cross.

He told CNA that the evacuation centre will remain in operation for a period of seven days following the fire on Friday night.

"Moving forward, that is something that needs to be discussed," he said, adding that the centre has stopped accepting food donations.

"What we are hoping for in terms of donations are school supplies for the children – that is something we have yet to receive to this day."

At the evacuation centre, Mr Hidayutallah said that they provide counselling and trauma healing sessions for those affected by the blaze.

"We also play with the children so that they are able to forget about what had happened the night of the fire," he said.

State-owned company apologises for blaze

In a statement on Monday, state energy company Pertamina Patra Niaga apologised for the blaze and said that it mourns the victims of the disaster.

"Of course, no one wants this disaster to happen. We will take full responsibility ... and will provide the best treatment for the victims (of the blaze) and assist the needs of the families of those currently warded in hospitals," the firm said in a statement.

It added that the firm will also cover all patient care costs of the victims and will be on standby at the hospitals to anticipate the needs of those affected.

"The best treatment for the victims remains our priority," Pertamina Patra Niaga said in its statement.

The fire, which started at about 8pm local time on Friday, reportedly began from a fuel pipe at Pertamina's Plumpang fuel storage depot in Jakarta.

It quickly spread to nearby houses in the area and sent the local population running for safety, local media reported.

As of Monday morning, the death toll stood at 18 people, according to data from the Jakarta provincial government's website. Some 37 people are warded in hospitals.

President Joko Widodo, in a visit to an evacuation site for residents in North Jakarta on Sunday, reportedly said that the area surrounding the Plumpang fuel storage depot is considered a danger zone and is no longer habitable.

"I have asked the State-Owned Enterprises Minister and Jakarta Governor to immediately seek solutions for the incident in Plumpang, especially because this is a dangerous zone, no longer inhabitable," Mr Widodo was quoted as saying by Indonesian state news agency Antara.

Mr Widodo added that there is a possibility that the fuel depot may be moved to a safer location or that residents in the area may be relocated following the blaze.

Investigations into the cause of the fire continue, though Pertamina said earlier on Saturday that a pipe leak had been detected prior to the blaze.

On Sunday, Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, said that the fuel depot may be moved to artificial islands off the north coast of Jakarta.

Speaking to local media, Jokowi said that the depot would be surrounded by a river, and not a housing settlement.

He has also ordered an audit of similar facilities across the country to prevent a similar incident from happening, Reuters reported.

A similar fire occurred at the Plumpang fuel storage depot in 2014, destroying some 40 houses, though no casualties were reported then. – CNA/as(aw)

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/indonesia-north-jakarta-pertamina-plumpang-fire-fuel-depot-blaze-332828