Tragic: Dozens killed in fire at overcrowded Indonesian prison

Indonesian police patrol at a prison in Tangerang on Wednesday after a fire broke out and killed 41 inmates [Photo by Fajrin Raharjo/AFP]
Indonesian police patrol at a prison in Tangerang on Wednesday after a fire broke out and killed 41 inmates

A fire tore through an overcrowded block in a jail in Indonesia’s western Banten province, killing at least 41 people and injuring dozens, a government spokeswoman and media reports said.

The fire, which broke out between 1 to 2am local time (18 to 19:00 GMT) on Wednesday at the Tangerang Prison Block C, has been extinguished and authorities are still evacuating the facility, said Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman of the corrections department of the law and human rights ministry.

“The cause is under investigation,” she said. Investigators from the fire department said that they are also looking at the defective electrical wiring as a source of the fire.

The block housed inmates being held for drug-related offences and had a capacity for 122 people, she said.

Rika did not say how many people were in the facility when the fire broke out but confirmed the jail was overcrowded.

The prison in Tangerang, an industrial and manufacturing hub near the capital Jakarta, housed more than 2,000 inmates, far more than its 600 people capacity, according to government data as of September.

Kompas TV showed footage of firefighters trying to put out huge flames from the top of a building.

The broadcaster reported 41 people had died and eight had been seriously injured.

“The initial suspicion is this was because of an electrical short circuit,” police spokesman Yusri Yunus told Metro TV, which cited a police report saying that 73 people had suffered light injuries.

Those who were injured were taken to two hospitals in Tangerang while those who were unharmed were taken to a different facility within the prison complex, according to the Beritasatu news website.

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