A towering inferno has engulfed a large oil refinery in West Java, Indonesia after an explosion occurred at midnight on Monday. The flames quickly grew out of control, leaving 5 people seriously injured, and resulting in an evacuation that has relocated around 1,000 people living in the area. One person also died of a heart attack afterward.
Whilst the cause of the fire is currently unknown, heavy rain and lightning were seen just prior to the explosion, leaving some suspecting a lightning strike as the culprit. Others have suggested foul play, although it remains too early to tell.
“There was a very loud sound and I thought it was a hurricane,” Rumaji, a local resident, said while speaking to The Guardian. “I looked outside and the fire was huge. The flames were shooting into the sky.”
A compilation of social media posts showing the blaze. Video Credit: Unbelievable Events.
Firefighters on the scene are still battling with the blaze. According to Pertamina chief executive Nicke Widyawati, the fire has been contained to a small area and may be extinguished soon.
“Yesterday we carried out an isolated fire control, now we are taking an offensive effort to further extinguish the fires," Ifki Sukarya, a spokesperson for Pertamina, said today to Reuters.
The Balongan Refinery is one of the largest oil refineries in Indonesia and is owned and operated by Pertamina, a state-owned oil and natural gas mining company. Currently, in control of 6 refineries across Indonesia, the Balongan Refinery was their second smallest plant but also their latest refinery to be built, processing around 125,000 barrels of oil per day.
However, following downpours and bolts of lightning, a fire broke out at around 00:45 AM Monday morning.
“We smelled a strong fuel scent first, so strong that my nose hurt, while we heard lightning strikes,” said resident Susi, to local news outlet Metro TV, reports Reuters.
“Suddenly the sky was orange,”
Users took to social media to share their videos and images of the ongoing fire, with some showing a wall of fire rising above the trees. Residents ran for their lives, fearing a second explosion. While officials state that no one died as a direct result of the fire, local media outlets reported one death as a result of a heart attack from shock.
Many expressed concern that the destruction of the Balongan Refinery will be a major blow to Indonesia’s economy, but Pertamina explains otherwise. According to the Guardian, all remaining stock of oil has been contained and will be redistributed to other refineries, and Pertamina state that “there’s more than enough national supply”.