INDRAMAYU, KOMPAS.com - A powerful explosion occurred at one of the tanks of Indonesia's Balongan oil refinery owned by the state oil firm Pertamina in Indramayu regency, West Java on Monday, March 29.
Pertamina Subholding Refining and Petrochemical Corporate Secretary Ifky Sukarya said the fire was suspected to have been caused by lightning that occurred in the early hours of Monday.
"The tank at the RU VI Balongan refinery caught fire at 00:45 am. It occurred during heavy rain and lightning, then the T-301G tank caught fire," Ifky said in an interview with Kompas TV, Monday.
On the other hand, West Java Police chief Inspector General Ahmad Dofiri revealed that the fire was due to a suspected leakage or refinery seepage.
However, the Forensic Laboratory Center (Puslabfor) of the National Police Headquarters officials are still investigating the cause of the explosion.
"[Puslabfor] has been deployed to the scene and will start an investigation after the fire has subsided. Later there are steps to identify the source of the fire," said Dofiri Monday.
Currently, he added, the fire at Pertamina RU VI Balongan refinery has been slightly dimming.
Indramayu Regent Nina Agustina said all parties have stepped in to evacuate residents, including the Health Service and the Fire Service in Indramayu. More than 1,000 residents were displaced to three temporary evacuation shelters, namely the Indramayu Regent's Hall, the Islamic Center, and the Bumi Patra Indramayu Housing Sports Hall.
"They must have panicked as no one expected this fire incident. Approximately 1,000 people from Balongan, Majakerta, and Sukahurip were displaced at the three shelters," said Nina Agustina.
The Indramayu Administration will identify all affected residents. Several houses were reported to have cracked walls, shattered glass, and collapsed ceilings as a result of the explosion.
“The government and Pertamina guarantee the safety of the victims, including the cost of treatment. There are also victims being treated in hospitals," Nina added.
Pertamina called on the residents to stay calm and stay away from the scene. When the incident occurred, four residents who were passing by suffered burns and were immediately referred to intensive care at the Indramayu Regional Hospital.
Based on data from the Indramayu District Health Office, there are 21 victims. Of these, 14 people had minor and moderate burns, and 7 had severe burns.
Currently, a road blockade to the vicinity of the incident is being carried out, assisted by the Indonesian Military. Pertamina is also carrying out a shutdown to control oil flows and prevent the expansion of fires.
The Balongan Refinery is one of Indonesia's largest refineries and also one of its most crucial, as it feeds fuel and petrochemicals to the greater Jakarta area. It recently increased its production capacity from 125 MBSD to 150 MBSD.
The fire was focused on the refinery tanks, with no damage to the processing plant, said Reuters citing Pertamina Chief Executive Officer Nicke Widyawati. With this incident, Pertamina ensures that the fuel supply will not be disrupted as they have procedures for handling fuel supply in an emergency.
The operations could hopefully return to normal in the next five days.
(Writer: Mohamad Umar Alwi | Editor: Abba Gabrillin, Farid Assifa)