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Jakarta Post

Pertamina ignored warnings before Balongan fire: Ombudsman

A farmer works in his field as smoke billows from a fire at Balongan refinery, operated by state oil company Pertamina, in Indramayu, West Java on March 30, 2021. (AFP/Agus Sipur)
Norman Harsono
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Jakarta   ●   Sat, April 17 2021

The Indonesian Ombudsman has slammed state-owned oil and gas giant Pertamina for ignoring locals’ complaints over a pungent smell likened to a fuel leak in the hours before the company’s Balongan refinery in West Java was engulfed in flames on March 29.

The Ombudsman said on Wednesday that ignoring the complaints was a misstep and that heeding the warning might have reduced the damage caused in the incident that ended up displacing nearly 900 residents and killing two.

“That smell should have been an early warning but it was unattended, even ignored,” Ombudsman investigator Hery Susanto told reporters in a virtual press conference.

The Ombudsman’s finding shifts more responsibility on Pertamina for the fire instead of on natural causes, namely the stormy weather with lightning in the area during the time of the incident....

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