At least 10 killed, dozens injured in illegal Indonesia oil well fire

Indonesian fire fighters battle to extinguish a fire at an illegal oil well in Peureulak. (Ilyas Ismail, AFP)
Indonesian fire fighters battle to extinguish a fire at an illegal oil well in Peureulak. (Ilyas Ismail, AFP)

At least 10 people have been killed and dozens more injured in a huge blaze at an illegal oil well in Indonesia, authorities said on Wednesday.

An oil spill sparked a huge fire about 01:30 (18:30 GMT) in a residential area on Sumatra island's Aceh province, destroying at least three houses and still burning out of control mid-morning.

"The [fire] is still soaring high and has not yet successfully been extinguished," said Saiful, head of Aceh's Ranto Peureulak subdistrict.

At least 10 bodies have been recovered and the death toll is expected to rise, police said, while injured victims were being treated at local hospitals.

Firefighters were at the scene, with state-owned oil company Pertamina assisting their efforts.

Police said the victims were collecting oil from around the entrance of an oil wellbore when the blaze erupted.

It was not known how much oil was spilled or what ignited the fire.

Deadly fires are not uncommon

East Aceh is dotted with numerous small-scale oil mining operations, which are often run illegally by local villagers.

Although authorities said the operation was illegal, deadly fires are not uncommon in Indonesia, a sprawling country of more than 260 million people where safety regulations are often flouted.

In October, 47 people died after a blaze tore through a fireworks factory outside Jakarta.

Workplace safety is often lacking in Indonesia and there are also concerns about lax building standards.

This year, Jakarta temporarily halted all elevated transportation projects after a dozen major accidents killed five and wounded dozens more.

That directive followed a balcony collapse at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building which injured dozens.

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