Fire at Indonesian prison kills 41 inmates
A massive fire raged through an overcrowded prison near Indonesia’s capital early Wednesday, killing 41 people and injuring dozens of others, two of them foreigners serving drug sentences, and injuring 80 others, an official said.
Firefighters extinguished the blaze — which was mostly contained within one block that housed prisoners jailed on drug charges — at around 3 am (2000 GMT Tuesday) and evacuated the victims.
Televised footage showed firefighters battling to extinguish orange flames while black smoke billowed from the compound. Indonesian Red Cross officials evacuated the victims to ambulances and dozens of bodies in orange bags were laid in a room of Tangerang prison on the outskirts of Jakarta.
"Forty died on the scene and one died on his way to the hospital," said Yasonna Laoly, Indonesia's justice minister, adding that eight were seriously injured and 31 sustained minor injuries.
Most of the 41 killed were drug convicts, including two men from South Africa and Portugal, but a terrorism convict and a murder were also killed, Indonesia’s Justice and Human Rights minister Yasona Laoly told reporters.
He expressed his deep condolences for the family of the victims and pledged to provide the best treatment for injured victims.
"This is a tragedy that concerns all of us,” Laoly said. "We are working closely with all relevant parties to investigate the causes of the fire.”
Jakarta police chief Fadil Imran earlier told media that 72 had minor injuries.
Authorities were still investigating the cause of the incident at Tangerang Penitentiary, just outside the capital Jakarta, but suspected an electrical fault may have been to blame.
"Based on early observation, it is suspected (the fire) happened because of a short circuit," Imran said.
Laoly said the prison's electrical system had not been upgraded since it was built over 40 years ago, in 1972.
"The fire spread quickly and there was no time to open some cells... When the guards found out, the fire had already spread, and that's where we found the victims," Laoly added.
In April last year, Indonesia released about 29,000 inmates in a bid to stop Covid-19 from rampaging through a prison system known for its unsanitary conditions.
Safety measures are often lacking in the Southeast Asian country of nearly 270 million.
In 2019, 30 people -- including several children -- were killed when a matchstick factory exploded in North Sumatra after a worker accidentally dropped a lighter on some flammable materials.