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Inferno: Residents try to save their belongings on Wednesday as a fire rips through their homes in Rawa Indah, Kapuk Muara, North Jakarta. The fire, which gutted dozens of homes, was allegedly caused by an electrical short circuit. Antara/Ardiansyah Indra Kumala
Large fires occurred in two densely populated areas during the Islamic holiday of Idul Fitri, leaving hundreds of families homeless.
A day after 150 houses in a carpentry area in Pondok Bambu, East Jakarta, were scorched, another fire razed 300 stilt houses in Kapuk Muara, North Jakarta, on Wednesday.
Jakarta Fire Agency chief Paimin Napitupulu said that 26 fire trucks were dispatched to extinguish the flames in Kapuk Muara, which was only extinguished two hours after the fire began at 10 a.m. due to strong winds.
Paimin estimated that at least 300 families, or approximately 1,200 people, had lost their homes. Total material losses were estimated at Rp 1.5 billion (US$157,900), beritajakarta.com reported.
“We’re still trying to establish the cause of the fire, but it was very likely caused by a electricity short circuit,” he said.
Local community unit head Udin, on the other hand, said that the fire was likely caused by a stove explosion in one of the houses, but he suspected that the explosion was engineered.
“The land [occupied by the parched houses] is still under dispute,” Udin, whose house was also burned down, told reporters.
However, Udin refused to disclose more about the land ownership and the parties in dispute. He later added that residents in the area were mostly people who worked in informal sectors such as motorcycle taxi drivers and construction workers, and that they were once evicted from their illegally constructed houses at the banks of the Kali Muara river in North Jakarta.
Some of the residents owned identity cards issued by the Jakarta administration and some did not, Udin said.
Despite the residential issue, the North Jakarta Social Agency head, Ika Lestari, said that her agency would distribute necessary aid for the victims of the blaze and set up two tents 20 meters away from the fire site. “It’s a tragedy and the social agency is both obligated and humanely driven to help,” Ika said, adding that the office would provide three meals a day for victims for three days, or a week following the fire.
Other than aid from the social agency, assistance from other parties had yet to arrive at the site.
It has become a common phenomenon in the city during dry season to see three to four fire incidents per day. According to data from the fire department, there were 530 fires between January and July that claimed 31 lives and caused Rp 172.4 billion in damage. Officials attributed the cause of 370 of the fires to electrical problems and 57 fires to faulty stoves. The number of fires in the first half of 2012 was much larger than the 300 recorded in the same period last year.
Meanwhile, aid in Pondok Bambu continued to arrive after the blaze started on Tuesday.
The East Jakarta Social Agency had also established two tents for the homeless near the site of the fire and community members distributed used clothes and food at a post established by a neighborhood unit.
“We have yet to identify all kinds of aid, but it is mostly food and mineral water coming from the social agency, the Red Cross and local residents,” local neighborhood unit head Ahmad Sahil Hakim said.
However, the abundant aid did not necessarily ease victims’ burdens. Ahmad said that other residents in the neighborhood had issued statement related to the building of carpentry houses in the area.
If the carpentry houses were not rebuilt, hundreds of victims would lose both their residences and their livelihoods, he said.
He continued to explain that most of the 140 families affected by the fire hailed from Central Java. The families rented rooms in the carpentry workshops that they also worked at. (aml)