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Aceh: 21 Dead After Illegal Oil Well Explodes

An illegal oil well in Pasir Putih village, Ranto Peureulak subdistrict, East Aceh exploded on Wednesday, April 25, killing 21 people and injuring 42 others.

According to the East Aceh Disaster and Evacuation Agency (BPBD), the deadly fire destroyed at least five houses. All of the victims were residents of Ranto Peureulak. A local search and rescue team is continuing to search for other possible victims.

“The police are still investigating the cause of the explosion,” Ranto Peureulak subdistrict head Saiful said.

Meanwhile, the government said that it would take legal action against parties responsible for the incident.

“This is an illegal [well]. So, we, along with the local administration, will take legal action,” Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry spokesman, Agung Pribadi, told reporters in Jakarta.

Agung said the illegal oil well was drilled on state-owned oil and gas company Pertamina’s operational territory in East Aceh. He said a joint team involving the ministry’s oil and gas directorate and Pertamina had been sent to Pasir Putih to investigate the incident.

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

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesperson, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, said the victims were extracting crude oil from the well prior to the fire, moving the oil into containers.

“We have reason to believe that the blaze was triggered by welding sparks,” Sutopo said, adding that ownership of the well had yet to be confirmed.

This oil well fire is the second crude oil-related environmental disaster to have occurred this month, after around 40,000 barrels of crude oil crude leaked from an underwater Pertamina pipeline in Balikpapan Bay, East Kalimantan, on March 31.

Source: Jakarta Post

Photo courtesy of Zik Maulana/Associated Press

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