Tangerang: At least 41 dead after fire breaks out in Indonesian jail

image sourceAntara Foto/Bal/via REUTERS

image captionThe blaze broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning

At least 41 people have died in Indonesia after a fire broke out at an overcrowded prison on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

The blaze broke out in the early hours of Wednesday morning at Tangerang jail, when most of the prisoners were asleep.

There were 122 inmates staying in Block C – the prison block that was affected – far more than the 40-person capacity.

Some foreigners, including inmates from Portugal and South Africa, are among the victims.

Indonesia’s Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly said in a press conference that the embassies of the respective countries had been informed.

Mr Laoly added that multiple rooms in the prison block had been locked and could not be opened as the fire spread.

The block housed inmates held for drug-related offences. One victim was reported to be a murder convict, the other found guilty of terrorism, and the rest were in prison for crimes involving drugs.

Dozens more people are said to be injured, with some in ICU.

A short circuit is suspected to be the cause of the fire, though the spokeswoman for Indonesian correctional institutions said this was yet to be confirmed and would be investigated further.

Only 15 guards were on duty for the entire building, which housed 2,000 inmates – a far higher number than its intended 600-person capacity. Prison overcapacity is a persistent problem in Indonesian jails.

image sourceEPA

image captionVictims are carried away from the jail

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Fire kills 41 inmates, 80 hurt at crowded Indonesian prison

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A massive fire raged through an overcrowded prison near Indonesia’s capital early Wednesday, killing at least 41 inmates, two of them foreigners serving drug sentences, and injuring 80 others.

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.

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.”

The preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire that started around 1:45 a.m. pointed to a short circuit in one of 19 cells in prison Block C2, Jakarta Police Chief Fadil Imran said. Block C2 was stuffed full with 122 convicts.

After the fire was extinguished, hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed around the prison to prevent prisoners from escaping, Imran told reporters near the scene.

“The situation is now under control,” Imran said, adding that at least 41 inmates were killed and 80 were injured.

Eight are hospitalized with severe burns and nine with light injuries are being treated at a prison clinic, the Justice and Human Rights ministry said. Another 64, many suffering smoke inhalation, were evacuated to a mosque in the compound.

Tangerang prison was designed to house 1,225 inmates but has more than 2,000, said Rika Aprianti, spokesperson for the corrections department at the Justice Ministry.

She said 15 prison officers guarding the cell block were unhurt.

Laoly vowed to make efforts to prevent a similar tragedy, including to fix electricity problems at 477 prisons across the vast archipelago nation.

Jailbreaks and riots that led to fire are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons that are struggling with poor funding and large numbers of people arrested in a war on illegal drugs.

In April last year, inmates angered by restrictions on family visits and the early release of 115 other inmates to curb the spread of the coronavirus set fire to a prison on Sulawesi island. Earlier in 2020, inmates set fire to a prison in Banda Aceh during a riot.

No deaths were reported from those fires.

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Fire at overcrowded Indonesian prison kills at least 41, SE Asia News & Top Stories

JAKARTA (REUTERS) – A fire tore through an overcrowded block in a jail in Indonesia’s Banten province in the early hours of Wednesday (Sept 8), killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens, a government spokesman and media reports said.

The fire, which broke out around 1am to 2am at the Tangerang Prison Block C, has been extinguished and the authorities were still evacuating the facility, said Ms Rika Aprianti, a spokesman of the prison department of the Law and Human Rights Ministry.

“The cause is under investigation,” she said.

The block housed inmates being held for drug-related offences and had a capacity for 122 people, she said.

She did not say how many people were present when the fire broke out, but confirmed the jail was overcrowded.

Two foreign nationals were among the 41 inmates killed, according to the country’s law and human rights minister.

Minister Yasonna Laoly told a news conference the foreigners were from South Africa and Portugal.

The prison in Tangerang, an industrial and manufacturing hub near Jakarta, housed more than 2,000 inmates, far more than its 600 people capacity, according to government data as of September.

Cells were locked at the time, the minister said, but with the fire raging uncontrollably, “some rooms couldn’t be opened.” Earlier on Wednesday, Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the ministry’s prison department, said 122 were being detained on drug-related offences in a block built to hold 38.

On Wednesday morning local TV showed footage of flames engulfing the detention facility, and later, the building’s charred remains as victims were pulled from the scene in orange body bags.

Dr. Hilwani from Tangerang General Hospital told Reuters that some of the bodies had been so badly burned they were unidentifiable.

“The initial suspicion is this was because of an electrical short circuit,” police spokesman Yusri Yunus told Metro TV, which cited a police report saying that 73 people also had light injuries.

The electrical wiring at the prison had not been upgraded since 1972 when the prison was built, minister Yasonna told Wednesday’s briefing.


Police and hospital officials store body bag of dead victims at a morgue in a local general hospital in Tangerang on Sept 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Leopold Sudaryono, a criminologist and PhD candidate at the Australian National University, said that overcrowding also complicated emergency evacuation efforts.

“At the Tangerang prison there are only five guards working one shift to guard a prison with 2,079 people” he said. “So fire detection efforts and evacuations are difficult.”

The head of the prison was not immediately available for comment on the ratio of inmates to guards, nor the capacity of the facility.

Prison department spokeswoman Rika told local media that 13 guards had been on duty at the facility at the time of the blaze.

BREAKING NEWS – Kebakaran Lapas Kelas 1 Tangerang, 41 Orang Meninggal

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Fire in Indonesia prison kills 41 in block crowded to more than 3 times capacity

An ambulance is seen at the main entrance gate of Tangerang prison following a fire overnight at an overcrowded jail in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, September 8, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

  • Tangerang block built for 38 had 122 inmates as fire broke out
  • Drug offender incarcerations blamed for chronic prison crowding
  • All fatalities were inmates; one each from South Africa, Portugal

TANGERANG, Indonesia, Sept 8 (Reuters) – A fire killed 41 inmates in an overcrowded prison block in Indonesia’s Banten province, a government minister said on Wednesday, injuring scores more in a blaze that police said may have been caused by an electrical fault.

The fire, the country’s most deadly since 47 perished in a firework factory disaster in 2017, broke out at 1.45 a.m. local time in a Tangerang Prison block, said Indonesian law and human rights minister Yasonna Laoly, after visiting the scene.

“We’re working together with relevant authorities to look into the causes of the fire and of course formulating prevention strategies so that severe catastrophes like this won’t happen again,” the minister said in a statement.

The minister said two of the dead were foreign nationals, one each from South Africa and Portugal, and confirmed the prison was operating in overcapacity when the fire broke out. Cells were locked at the time, the minister said, but with the fire raging uncontrollably, “some rooms couldn’t be opened.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the ministry’s prison department, said 122 were being detained on drug-related offences in a block built to hold 38.

Rika said all 41 fatalities were inmates, adding authorities were still evacuating the facility as of 9.00 a.m. local time.

Prisons in Indonesia are notoriously overcrowded, with experts saying the phenomenon is partly due to the emphasis on incarceration rather than rehabilitation of those convicted of drug-related offences under the country’s strict narcotics laws.

On Wednesday morning local TV showed footage of flames engulfing the detention facility, and later, the building’s charred remains as victims were pulled from the scene in orange body bags.

Dr. Hilwani from Tangerang General Hospital told Reuters that some of the bodies had been so badly burned they were unidentifiable.

Metro TV cited a police report saying that 73 people also had suffered light injuries. “The initial suspicion is this was because of an electrical short circuit,” police spokesman Yusri Yunus told the broadcaster.

The electrical wiring at the prison had not been upgraded since 1972 when the prison was built, minister Yasonna told Wednesday’s briefing.

The prison in Tangerang, an industrial and manufacturing hub on the outskirts of Jakarta, housed more than 2,000 inmates in total, far exceeding its 600 capacity, according to government data as of September.

Leopold Sudaryono, a criminologist and PhD candidate at the Australian National University, said that overcrowding also complicated emergency evacuation efforts.

“At the Tangerang prison there are only five guards working one shift to guard a prison with 2,079 people” he said. “So fire detection efforts and evacuations are difficult.”

The head of the prison was not immediately available for comment on the ratio of inmates to guards, nor the capacity of the facility. Prison department spokeswoman Rika told local media that 13 guards had been on duty at the facility at the time of the blaze.

There have been several deadly fires in Indonesia in recent years. As well as the 2017 Tangerang fireworks factory blaze, a 2019 fire at a matchstick factory in North Sumatra killed 30 people.

Additional reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Fransiska Nangoy and Johan Purnomo; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo and Kate Lamb; Editing by Ed Davies and and Kenneth Maxwell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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By HitNews