Indonesia Prison Fire – Kills 41 inmates


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Forty-one prisoners died after a massive fire spread through the Tangerang jail situated near Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

The prison fire broke out on Wednesday when most of the inmates were sleeping. Guards tried to unlock as many cells as possible but had to leave as the fire raged.

Block C was the worst affected block where 122 prisoners were staying and had a capacity of more than 40 people.

People who died included two foreign victims – inmates from Portugal and South Africa.

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

He also said that eight people were seriously injured while dozens more had minor injuries.

Television footage displayed profuse smoke rising from the prison complex as the fire fumed.

It started at about 01:45 local time (18:45 GMT Tuesday) and was put out just over an hour later.

“The fire spread quickly and there was no time to open some cells… When the guards found out, the fire had already spread, and that’s where we found the victims,” Mr Yasonna told.

Although the actual cause of the fire was still being investigated, according to him an electrical short-circuit was the reason behind it.

He further added that the building was built in 1972 and its electrical system had not been updated since then.

The affected block was mainly housed by inmates who were imprisoned for drug-related offences.

Among the victims, one was reported to be a murder convict, another had been found guilty of terrorism. 

The rest of the victims on the other hand were convicted for drug-related crimes.

Dr Hilwani from Tangerang General Hospital told Reuters that some bodies could not be identified as they were burnt so badly. Hence DNA tests were being used.

One relative of a victim, Marlinah, told the AFP news agency outside the hospital:

“I saw a viral video of the fire. Then I heard that my brother might have been killed. Then we rushed here. All we hope for now is that the procedure will not be too complicated so we can bring my brother’s body for burial.”

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 an obstinate problem in all the jails in Indonesia.



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