41 killed in Indonesia prison fire

Police officers guard at the main entrance gate of Tangerang Prison in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. A massive fire raged through the overcrowded prison early Wednesday, killing a number of inmates. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

A fire killed 41 inmates in an overcrowded prison block in Indonesia’s Banten province, a government minister said on Wednesday, injuring scores more in a blaze that police said may have been caused by an electrical fault.

The fire, the country’s most deadly since 47 perished in a firework factory disaster in 2017, broke out at 1:45 am local time in a Tangerang Prison block, said Indonesian law and human rights minister Yasonna Laoly, after visiting the scene.

Police officers guard the main entrance gate of Tangerang Prison in Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. /CFP

“We’re working together with relevant authorities to look into the causes of the fire and of course formulating prevention strategies so that severe catastrophes like this won’t happen again,” the minister said in a statement.

The minister said two of the dead were foreign nationals, one each from South Africa and Portugal, and confirmed the prison was operating in overcapacity when the fire broke out. Cells were locked at the time, the minister said, but with the fire raging uncontrollably, “some rooms couldn’t be opened.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the ministry’s prison department, said 122 were being detained on drug-related offenses in a block built to hold 38.

Rika said all 41 fatalities were inmates, adding authorities were still evacuating the facility as of 9:00 am local time.