Police on hunt for owner of house believed to be the source of huge fire that destroyed 165 homes in W. Jakarta

Firefighters putting out fire in West Jakarta’s Tomang on January 21, 2019. Photo: West Jakarta Command Center
Firefighters putting out fire in West Jakarta’s Tomang on January 21, 2019. Photo: West Jakarta Command Center

A huge fire engulfed the administrative village of Tomang in West Jakarta early Monday morning, destroying at least 165 homes in the densely populated neighborhood.

The West Jakarta Police say they believe that the fire originated in the home of a resident, identified as Tum, who was cooking in the early hours of Monday morning for her warung (food stall) business. An exploded gas canister is suspected to have caused the fire, which spread from Tum’s house to nearby houses, destroying homes in three Community Units (RW).

“[The owner of the house] has not been found. We are looking for her,” West Jakarta Police Chief Hengki Haryadi said today, as quoted by Kompas.

Hengki added that a thorough investigation is being carried out to confirm if the fire originated from Tum’s house and whether or not it was an accident.

“If there is proof it was deliberate, we can use Article 187 of the KUHP (Criminal Code) and we will continue the investigation because the house’s owner (Tum) has not been found,” he said.

The law states that arson is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

The fire reportedly engulfed the neighborhood at around 3am on Monday and firefighters managed to put out the blaze at around 9:30am. There were no reports of any casualties from the incident, though over 1,250 people were displaced and are now housed in temporary refuge posts after their homes were destroyed.

Fires tend to quickly get out of control in Jakarta’s densely populated settlements, where houses are often crammed together and the streets are so narrow that firefighters often have difficulties getting their equipment into the neighborhoods to put out the fires. As such, it’s often the case that one small fire can spread and end up engulfing entire neighborhoods, displacing hundreds of residents.

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