As many as 41 inmates of a prison in Indonesia’s Banten province were killed and more than 80 injured after a fire broke out early on Wednesday morning, reported AP.
Rika Aprianti, a spokesperson in the prison department of the country’s law and human rights ministry, said the fire broke out between 1 am and 2 am at block C of Tangerang prison, reported Reuters. The fire has been extinguished, she added.
Indonesian Red Cross officials helped in evacuating the victims. The country’s Justice and Human Rights Ministry said that eight inmates who suffered serious burns were hospitalised and nine more with light injuries were being treated at a prison clinic.
Another 64, who mostly were suffering because they inhaled the smoke from the fire, were evacuated to a mosque in the compound. Fifteen prison officers who were guarding the cell block were not injured, Aprianti said.
“The cause is under investigation,” she said, adding that there were 122 prisoners in the block.
The Tangerang prison had over 2,000 inmates, far more than its capacity of 600, according to government data. Aprianti did not say how many people were present when the incident took place but confirmed the jail was overcrowded.
The preliminary investigation into the cause of the fire suggested that it could be a short circuit in one of the 19 cells in the block, Jakarta Police chief Fadil Imran said.
Imran added that police personnel and soldiers were deployed around the prison to prevent other inmates from escaping.
Indonesia’s Justice and Human Rights Minister Yasona Laoly expressed condolence for the family of the deceased and vowed to provide the best treatment for those hurt.
“This is a tragedy that concerns all of us,” Laoly said.
The minister also said he would make efforts to prevent reoccurrence of a similar tragedy, including fixing electricity problems at 477 prisons across the country.
Earlier too, fires had broken out at Indonesian prisons due to jailbreaks and riots.
In April last year, inmates had set fire to a prison on Sulawesi island as they were upset by restrictions on family visits and early release of 115 other prisoners in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Again in 2020, inmates had staged a riot and set fire to a prison in Banda Aceh. However, no one died in these two fire incidents last year.