Fire kills 41 inmates, 80 injured in overcrowded Indonesian prison
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – A huge fire raged on Wednesday in an overcrowded prison near the Indonesian capital, killing at least 41 inmates, including two foreigners serving drug sentences, and injuring 80 others.
Television footage showed firefighters struggling to put out orange flames as black smoke billowed from the compound. Indonesian Red Cross officials evacuated the victims to ambulances and dozens of bodies in orange bags were deposited in a room in Tangerang prison on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Most of the 41 people killed were convicts of drug trafficking, including two men from South Africa and Portugal, but one convicted of terrorism and one murder were also killed, Indonesia’s justice minister told reporters. and Human Rights, Yasona Laoly.
He expressed his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and pledged to provide the best treatment to the injured victims.
“It is a tragedy that concerns us all,” said Laoly. “We are working closely with all parties concerned to investigate the causes of the fire.”
Preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire which started around 1:45 a.m. found a short circuit in one of the 19 cells in the C2 block of the prison, the Jakarta police chief said, Fadil Imran. Block C2 was filled 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 detainees were killed and 80 were injured.
Eight are hospitalized with severe burns and nine with minor injuries are treated in a prison clinic, the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights said. Another 64 people, many suffering from smoke inhalation, were evacuated to a mosque in the compound.
Tangerang prison was designed to house 1,225 detainees but has more than 2,000, said Rika Aprianti, spokesperson for the prison department of the justice ministry.
She said 15 prison officers who guarded the cell block were not injured.
Laoly pledged to make efforts to prevent a similar tragedy, including resolving electricity problems in 477 prisons across the vast archipelago country.
Prison breaks and riots that led to fires are common in Indonesia, where overcrowding has become a problem in prisons struggling with insufficient funding and large numbers of people arrested in a war on illegal drugs.
In April last year, inmates unhappy with restrictions on family visits and the early release of 115 other inmates to curb the spread of the coronavirus burned down a prison on the island of Sulawesi. Earlier in 2020, inmates torched a prison in Banda Aceh in a riot.
No deaths have been reported as a result of these fires.
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