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At least 21 die in illegal oil well explosion in Indonesia

26 April 2018

At least 21 people were killed and 42 others injured in an explosion at an illegal oil well in East Aceh on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, in the early hours of April 24, according to the Jakarta Post. The fire spread rapidly and destroyed at least five village houses, according to the East Aceh Disaster and Evacuation Agency. 

Representative image - Shutterstock
Representative image - Shutterstock

All of the victims were residents of the Ranto Peureulak subdistrict. A local search and rescue team is continuing to search for other possible victims.

An Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry spokesman told reporters in Jakarta that as it was an illegal well, the national and local administrations would take legal action against those found responsible. The well was drilled on state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina’s operational territory in East Aceh.

While the cause of the blaze remains under investigation, the Jakarta Post said eyewitnesses claimed the fire occurred after they saw welding sparks near the well and the flames instantly spread around the drilling site and oil storage area.

There are several crude old Pertamina oil wells around the area, some of which have been reopened by illegal operators. A National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesperson said the victims were extracting crude oil from the well prior to the fire, moving the oil into containers.

A joint team involving the ministry’s oil and gas directorate and Pertamina have been sent to the site  to investigate the incident. On April 26 the well was still ablaze.

This is the second crude oil-related environmental disaster to have occurred in Indonesia over the last month, after around 40,000 barrels of crude oil crude leaked from an underwater Pertamina pipeline in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, on March 31. Five fishermen died in that incident.

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