1 min read.Updated: 08 Sep 2021, 05:50 PM ISTThe Wall Street Journal
Blaze highlights concerns over country’s overcrowded penal system
A fire at an overcrowded Indonesian prison killed 41 inmates on Wednesday, reflecting the dangers posed by the country’s overloaded correctional facilities.
Yasonna Laoly, Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights, said the prison, located in an industrial area on the western part of Java island, housed 2,072 people, five times more than its capacity.
“The blaze grew so fast," Mr. Laoly said, adding that rescuers were unable to reach some cells in time.
Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze. Mr. Laoly said it was likely caused by an electrical problem as the prison’s electrical system hadn’t been improved since it was built in 1972.
At 1:45 a.m. local time Wednesday morning, prison authorities noticed flames, and contacted the fire department, which dispatched units that arrived 13 minutes later. Rescuers rushed to open doors to as many cells as they could, Mr. Laoly said, allowing dozens from the affected prison block to escape, some with injuries that were being treated at a nearby health clinic.
Forty prisoners died on the scene, while another died on the way to the hospital, he said. Television footage showed rescuers carrying away corpses in orange body bags. The fire was extinguished within 90 minutes.
All but two of those who died were convicted of drug offenses, with the others imprisoned for murder and terrorism offenses.
Human-rights groups have issued warnings about Indonesia’s overcrowded prisons, which they say have made them sites of Covid-19 infection.
An Indonesian government website showed that, as of last month, the country’s prisons were nearly 100% over capacity, with around 265,500 people detained but space for only 135,500 people.