The Jakarta Post
Everything Ahmad “Yono” Sumaryono had ever dreamed of for himself and his family perished in a matter of minutes when a blaze destroyed hundreds of houses on Jl. Thalib in Krukut subdistrict, Tamansari, West Jakarta.
That night, Yono, a 63-year-old musician, was about to go to sleep after watching television in his living room. His wife and two children were already in their rooms asleep.
“Suddenly a fire engulfed our house from behind around midnight. I could not save any important documents. Everything was black and orange around me,” Yono told The Jakarta Post on Monday while picking up debris from his burned house.
“The only thing I saw clearly that night was my keyboard. It was the only thing I brought with me,” he added.
More than 300 houses were razed in a blaze that struck in the early hours on Sunday morning, displacing more than 2,000 residents. Fortunately, no causalities were reported in the incident.
Some victims have taken shelter at their relatives’ houses while others are staying in shelter tents and at the nearest mosques.
Yono said the residents suspected the fire started at a house with a catering business, given the size of the fire and the rate at which it spread.
Tamansari Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ruly Indra said police had begun an investigation and had questioned four witnesses.
"We can't confirm the cause yet as we’re still waiting for the results from the national police forensic laboratory center," Ruly said.
Sucipto, whose house was behind the house where the fire is believed to have been sparked, said he managed to save important documents such as house certificates and family cards. Everything else was destroyed in the fire, he said. Sucipto lived with his mother who ran a warteg (food stall).
“We lost our home and warteg. My money, Rp 400,000 [US$ 28.13] in a piggy bank, and my mother's money, Rp 500,000 in her closet, also vanished. We don't know what to do after this," said the 30-year-old massage therapist.
Both Yono and Sucipto said they did not know what their fates would be after the fire. They were also uncertain about how long they would live in the shelter.
“A government official has recorded our identity, but we don't know if we will get money or not. We have received food, medicine and used clothes, but we still need more blankets to sleep, Yono said.
Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan visited the area and met with the victims on Monday. He distributed Rp 100 million in relief funds to the residents and said the Jakarta administration would also provide Rp 2.5 million in cash assistance for each family to renovate their burned houses.
The fire was just the latest in a series of similar incidents in the area. A fire also occurred on Jl. Keutamaan Dalam, 500 meters from Jl. Thalib, a year ago. The fire, which began after a man set fire to his house over a family inheritance dispute, spread over 10 neighborhood units (RT) and left more than 2,000 people homeless.
Syarif Hidayatullah, a 28-year-old ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver, only managed to save one of his two bikes, which he uses to earn an income.
Syarif and his family have struggled to recover since the fire, which also injured at least five other people. Syarif said he still lived in his heavily damaged home, which has only had minor renovations.
"We were given money by the government but it was not enough to rebuild the house. We still use zinc and tarpaulin as a roof,” he said.
Among the city's areas, West Jakarta has recorded among the highest number of fire incidents. According to the West Jakarta Fire Department, the number of fire incidents increased by 22 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. Electrical short circuits were the main cause.
Tamansari district has had among the fewest recorded incidents in area, with 24 incidents in 2018 compared to Cengkareng district where 70 incidents occurred.
"Fires are very frequent in West Jakarta. It’s like a fire arisan [social gathering] because the incidents rotate around our districts. However, we have taken measures to minimize them by educating residents about how to prevent and extinguish fires immediately," Jakarta Fire Department spokesman Saifullah told the Post.
The fire department had also provided equipment to the 96 most fire prone community units (RW) in West Jakarta, Saifullah said, including 6 kilogram fire extinguishers, fire blankets and wheeled extinguishers. Every RW has two of each equipment. Fire fighters also provide residents with training every year to help prevent fires.
Moreover, the fire department also checks the residents' electricity usage and gas installations regularly.
“We want to check how the residents use their power outlets, are they overloading them? Or do they exceed their electricity use without considering the cable capacity?" Saifullah said. (ggq)