Five people were hospitalised with burns and several are thought to be missing following a colossal fire at Tank T-301 at Pertamina’s 125,000 bpd Balongan Refinery in West Java, Indonesia.
The cause of the fire, which began at around 12.45am local time on 29 March 2021, is not known, although Pertamina says that the fire started during an electrical storm. Local media outlets report that there was a large explosion prior to the fire breaking out, which could be heard dozens of kilometres from the refinery. Footage posted by AFP on YouTube shows all tanks within the same bund fully ablaze, with thick black smoke billowing into the sky.
Pertamina said in a statement issued at 13.26pm local time that its emergency teams had succeeded in localising the fire so that it could not spread to the surrounding area. Ten fire engines, from Pertamina and from the local area, have been deployed to the site, and have been using foam on both the perimeter of the bund wall to isolate and cool it, and to the centre of the flames.
Almost 1,000 local residents were evacuated from Balongan, the village closest to the refinery. Around 200 people are sheltering in the Pendopo Indramayu, a building owned by the Indramayu Regency government, around 400 people are at the Indramayu Islamic Centre and around 350 are at the Bumi Patra Housing Sports Hall. Pertamina says that it is supplying masks, hand sanitiser, food and other provisions to those displaced.
The refinery itself has not been damaged by the blaze, which was confined to the tank area, although it has been shut down to control oil flows and prevent the spread of the fire. The company says that the refinery will restart once the fire is extinguished. Fuel supplies are unaffected.
‘On behalf of Pertamina, I would like to express my deep concern over the incident and apologise to the public. Please pray, that Pertamina and all stakeholders can handle this incident,’ says Nicke Widyawati, president director of Pertamina.