February 21. 2024. 6:46

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At least 15 die in fuel depot fire in Indonesian capital

Indonesian rescuers are searching for more than a dozen people missing under the rubble of charred houses and buildings, after a large fire spread from a fuel storage depot in the capital, killing 15 people.

The Plumpang fuel storage station, operated by state-run oil and gas company Pertamina, is near a densely populated area in the Tanah Merah neighbourhood in North Jakarta. It supplies 25 per cent of Indonesia’s fuel needs.

It took at least 260 firefighters and 52 fire engines to extinguish the blaze just before midnight on Friday after it tore through the area for more than two hours, fire officials said.

Footage showed hundreds of people running in panic as thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames filled the sky.

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A preliminary investigation showed the fire broke out when a pipeline ruptured during heavy rain, possibly triggered by a lightning strike, an official said.

Residents living near the depot said they smelled a strong odour of petrol, followed by a huge explosion.

Sri Haryati, a mother of three, said the fire began to spread about 20 minutes later, causing panic.

“I was crying and immediately grabbed our valuable documents and ran with my husband and children,” Ms Haryati said, adding that she heard smaller blasts that echoed across the area as flames leapt from the depot.

Rescuers are searching for people who were reported missing or separated from their families amid the chaos. About 49 people are receiving treatment in five hospitals, some of them in critical condition.

National Police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo said more than 1,300 people were displaced and taking shelter in 10 government offices, a Red Cross command post and a sports stadium.

He said investigators were working to establish the cause of the fire and questioning dozens of witnesses. – AP