At Least 15 Dead, Dozens Injured in Blaze at Indonesia Oil Well

At Least 15 Dead, Dozens Injured in Blaze at Indonesia Oil Well

Wednesday, 25 April, 2018 - 09:00
Indonesian firefighters battle to extinguish a fire at an illegal oil well in Peureulak on April 25, 2018. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat
At least 15 people were killed and 40 wounded on Wednesday in a fire that broke out at an oil well in the northwestern Indonesian province of Aceh, said authorities.

The fire broke out early on Wednesday, after a well of depth 250 meters (820 ft) overflowed and residents gathered to collect the oil, Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said.

Firefighters were still struggling to contain flames that towered over houses and trees.

“We are still collecting data on the number of victims because the fire has not been extinguished,” the disaster agency said in a statement.

Dozens of people were taken to hospital in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, several hours away, the agency said, adding that state oil firm Pertamina was providing equipment to help fight the fire.

At least eight fire trucks had been deployed to douse the blaze.

"I woke up when a very loud explosion shook our house like an earthquake," said 16-year-old resident Riska Sri Maulidyawati. "All our neighbors ran out to see what happened, but another loud explosion made everyone run away in panic," she said.

"Everyone was shouting 'Fire! Fire!' I also heard people screaming in pain and asking for help," Maulidyawati said. "Children crying and women shouting in panic. It was really scary for me," she said.

Edi Gunawan, director of a local hospital, told Indonesian television that those hospitalized have burns over between 20 and 60 percent of their bodies.

Several victims in serious condition have been transferred to a larger hospital, he said.

The head of police in the area said the oil well might have been drilled illegally and the fire might have been started when someone was smoking a cigarette.

“We suspect this is a well drilled by the community ... and we suspect there was someone smoking in the area at the time,” said police official Wahyu Kuncoro.

Aceh, at the north tip of the island of Sumatra, has significant commercially untapped natural gas reserves and is dotted with illegal wells.

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