Numerous deaths and injuries in illegal Indonesia oil well fire

Firefighters work near the site of a fire at an oil well in Peureulak Indonesia's Aceh province

Firefighters work near the site of a fire at an oil well in Peureulak Indonesia's Aceh province

At least 15 people have been killed and scores more seriously burnt after an illegal oil well ignited in the early hours of Wednesday (April 25) morning in the eastern Aceh Province village of Pasi Putih, on the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.

East Aceh Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Syahrizal Fauzi said the joint SAR team continued to work to recover other possible victims.

Sutopo said the 250-meter (820-foot) -deep well was gushing when it ignited and many people were nearby trying to collect the oil.

"I woke up when a very loud explosion shook our house like an quake", 16-year-old resident Riska Sri Maulidyawati said.

Authorities had trouble getting people out of the fire, and medical officials say several of the injured victims are in serious condition.

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Edi Gunawan, director of a local hospital, told Indonesian television that those hospitalized have burns over between 20 and 60 percent of their bodies. "Fire!' I also heard people screaming in pain and asking for help", Maulidyawati said. "It was really scary for me", she said. "We don't know if there are still victims because we can not get any closer", said the local disaster mitigation agency's head Syahrizal Fauzi.

"We are still collecting data on the number of victims because the fire has not been extinguished yet", the agency said in a statement.

Indonesia's Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources and the state-owned oil company Pertamina sent teams to Aceh, which has industrial oil and gas operations, to investigate the incident, said Agung Pribadi, a ministry spokesman.

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.

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