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Jakarta Post

Thousands displaced as fire tears through dense neighborhood

  • Indra Budiari

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 7, 2015   /  08:31 am

A fire devoured densely populated areas of Kebon Melati in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, on Thursday, claiming at least one life and leaving 2,122 people homeless.

Tugiyar, the secretary at Kebon Melati subdistrict office, said the victim, identified as 18-year-old Agung, was found on Thursday evening in a severely burned condition.

'€œHe is the only casualty in this incident, I hope there won'€™t be any more,'€ Tugiyar told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He said the fire had started at around 5 p.m., apparently sparked by a short circuit in a kost (boarding house).

At least 284 homes and three mosques in nine neighborhood units (RT) were destroyed in the blaze. The fire also disrupted the service of commuter trains between Tanah Abang station and nearby stations, forcing passengers to find alternative transportation.

Forty-five fire trucks were deployed to put out the blaze, which burned for around three hours.

The affected residents said most of them were staying in emergency shelters set up in nearby houses and schools.

Mohammad Toha, 30, sat in front of his destroyed house with teary eyes. He said that when the fire started, he and other local residents had frantically tried to extinguish it with buckets of water drawn from a small river in the area.

According to Toha, strong winds caused the fire to spread rapidly to other houses.

'€œThere were people screaming and crying everywhere. I told my family to remove any valuable documents because our house might not make it,'€ he said.

He said the first fire truck that came to the site failed to spray water from its hose, so the fire could not be tamed as soon as possible. Residents then took the initiative to fetch water from the river, but the small buckets they had to hand were simply inadequate.

Toha said further that while his wife and mother-in-law were resting in a temporary shelter, he had to guard his house from looters.

'€œMy neighbor said he had sold the remains of his burned house for Rp 300,000 [US$23]. I think I will do the same thing,'€ he continued.

Another resident, Wawan Kurniawan, said that although his house had burned down, he considered himself lucky as he had been able to save his motorcycle and television. He insisted, moreover, that the most important thing was that his family members were safe and sound.

Wawan, however, said he and his family had no clue where to go as they were aware that the emergency shelters were only temporary.

'€œI think I will start by cleaning the house and putting a tarpaulin up as a roof, so we can live there while we slowly rebuild our house,'€ he said, carrying a bag of salvaged belongings from his house.

Tugiyar, meanwhile, said the subdistrict office had asked residents to clean their houses together on Sunday.


Conflagrations in 2015

'€¢ Jan. 16: A fuel kiosk and an office building razed by fire in Tamansari, West Jakarta. No casualties reported in the accident.

'€¢ Feb. 25: Around 2,000 residents left homeless after a fire engulfs at least 200 houses in six neighborhood units in Karang Anyar, Sawah Besar, Central Jakarta.

'€¢ Feb. 25: Fire engulfs around 75 houses in a densely populated area in Rawa Buaya, West Jakarta, leaving 350 people homeless.

'€¢ March 2: Dharma Bhakti Temple, a 365-year-old Buddhist temple in West Jakarta, destroyed by fire in the small hours.

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