Oil well bursts into flames, killing 15

Flames from a burning oil well are seen at a village in Ranto Peureulak, Aceh Province.
Flames from a burning oil well are seen at a village in Ranto Peureulak, Aceh Province. Photo credit: Reuters

A newly drilled, unregulated oil well in western Indonesia has exploded into flames, burning to death 15 people and injuring dozens of others.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho says the well in Pasi Putih village in the east of Aceh province ignited about 1:30am (local time) and is still burning.

He said the well, drilled to a depth of about 250m, was gushing when it ignited and many people were around it trying to collect the oil.

Syahrizal, an official at the area's disaster agency, said 15 people had died and about 40 people were admitted to two hospitals.

"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.

Edi Gunawan, director of a local hospital, told Indonesian television that those hospitalised have burns over between 20 and 60 percent of their bodies.

Several victims in serious condition have been transferred to a larger hospital, he said.

The national disaster agency described the well as "traditional," likely meaning it had unclear ownership and was used by the local community.

Reuters