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Fire at illegal oil well kills 18 in Indonesia, many in hospital

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

world Updated: Apr 25, 2018 18:25 IST
Reuters, Banda Aceh (Indonesia)
Indonesia oil well fire,Indonesia,Oil well fire
Indonesian fire fighters battle to extinguish a fire at an illegal oil well in Peureulak on April 25, 2018. (AFP)

A fire erupted at an illegal oil well in Indonesia on Wednesday killing least 18 people and injuring 41 as they scrambled to collect oil after the well overflowed, authorities said.

Firefighters struggled all day to put out the blaze in the northwestern province of Aceh and were still working as darkness fell.

Dozens of people suffering from burns were taken to hospital in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, several hours away from where the accident happened.

“There was panic among the public because the fire is in a residential area,” said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency.

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

Earlier, Nugroho posted pictures on social media that showed flames towering over houses and trees as firefighters hosed down the area while villagers looked on.

“This is illegal drilling,” said Roberth MV Dumatubun, a spokesman for at PT Pertamina EP, a subsidiary of state oil firm Pertamina.

“It was a well made and managed by the residents there. Incidents like these are likely to happen because they don’t pay attention to elements like safety.”

Pertamina, which has operations in the area, was providing equipment to help fight the fire. At least eight fire trucks had been deployed to try to douse the blaze.

The head of police in the area said the fire might have been sparked by a careless smoker.

“We suspect there was someone smoking,” said police official Wahyu Kuncoro.

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First Published: Apr 25, 2018 09:43 IST