The well was drilled to a depth of about 250 metres, according to authorities. (AP: Al Mahdi)
A newly drilled, unregulated oil well in western Indonesia has exploded into flames, killing at least 15 people and injuring 40, authorities said.
- Several people are in a serious condition, with dozens suffering severe burns
- Locals describe hearing a loud explosion that felt like an earthquake
- Police suspect the well might have been drilled illegally
National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said the well in Pasi Putih village in the east of Aceh province on the island of Sumatra ignited about 1:30am (local time) and is still burning.
Five nearby houses were burned in the inferno.
Mr Nugroho said the well, drilled to a depth of about 250 meters, was gushing when it ignited and many people were around it trying to collect the oil.
Dozens of people were taken to hospital in the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, several hours away, the agency said, adding that state oil firm Pertamina was providing equipment to help fight the fire.
Edi Gunawan, director of a local hospital, told Indonesian television those hospitalised had burns between 20 and 60 per cent of their bodies.
Several victims in serious condition have been transferred to a larger hospital, he said.
At least eight fire trucks had been deployed to douse the blaze and local residents were woken by the explosion.
“I woke up when a very loud explosion shook our house like an earthquake,” said 16-year-old resident Riska Sri Maulidyawati.
“All our neighbours ran out to see what happened, but another loud explosion made everyone run away in panic,” she said.
“Everyone was shouting ‘Fire! Fire!’ I also heard people screaming in pain and asking for help,” Maulidyawati said.
“Children crying and women shouting in panic. It was really scary for me,” she said.
The head of police in the area said the oil well might have been drilled illegally and the fire might have been started when someone was smoking a cigarette.
“We suspect this is a well drilled by the community… and we suspect there was someone smoking in the area at the time,” police official Wahyu Kuncoro said.
Such illegal drilling is common in Aceh, where Pertamina operates an oil field.
Police said the fire may have started when someone was smoking a cigarette near the oil well. (Maulana vis Reuters: Antara Foto)