Fire in Tangerang Indonesia Prison, At Least 41 Killed

Fire in Tangerang Indonesia Prison, At Least 41 Killed - At least 41 inmates were reported killed and 80 others injured in a fire incident at the Class I Tangerang Penitentiary, Banten, on Wednesday (8/9) early in the morning.

The fire was successfully extinguished after two hours of raging. Hundreds of police and soldiers were deployed around the jail to prevent detainees from escaping, Metro Jaya Police Chief Inspector General Fadil Imran told reporters near the scene.

A woman who was a family member of the victim could not hide her grief, when met by Associated Press reporters outside the prison. "I've been hearing since 3 am. In two years, my brother will be released, God," he explained.

Fadil said at least 41 inmates were killed and 80 were hospitalized, eight of whom suffered severe burns. He said authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire but initial investigations pointed to a short circuit in one of the blocks. "I've seen it at the crime scene. Based on initial observations, it should be suspected that there was a short circuit in the electric current," he explained.

Previously, interviewed by VOA by telephone, the Head of Public Relations and Protocol of the Director General of Corrections Rika Aprianti said "at least 40 died, eight were treated at the Tangerang Hospital, 30 were treated at the prison clinic, the rest (44 people) are still being treated at the mosque in this prison." Class I prison in Tangerang is inhabited by 2,072 inmates, while specifically Block C is inhabited by 122 inmates.

He added that the fire started in Block C Class I prison in Tangerang at around 01.50 WIB.

Rika further said that "our main priority right now is treating the victims." The cause of the crash, he said, was "still under investigation."

Two foreigners

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly said two of the dead were foreign nationals, one each from South Africa and Portugal. He made sure the prison was operating at overcapacity when the fire broke out. The cell was locked at the time, Yasonna said, but with the fire raging uncontrollably, "some of the rooms couldn't be opened."

"We are working closely with the relevant authorities to find the cause of the fire and of course formulate a prevention strategy so that a major disaster like this does not happen again," Yasonna said in a statement, Wednesday (8/9), as quoted by Reuters.

The Tangerang prison was designed to house 1,225 inmates but has more than 2,000, according to Rika Aprianti, Head of Public Relations and Protocol at the Directorate General of Corrections, Ministry of Justice. Block C, where the fire occurred, houses 122 inmates. Rika said 15 prison officers guarding the block were not injured.

Prison breaks and riots that lead to fires are common in Indonesia. Many prisons are underfunded and overcrowded as arrests intensify in the war on drugs.

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