Watch: Death toll in fire at illegal oil well in Indonesia increases to 18

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 25, 2018, 07.00 PM(IST)

Firefighters in Indonesia struggled on Wednesday to contain a blaze at an oil well in the northwestern province of Aceh that killed at least 15 people and injured 40, authorities said. Photograph:( Reuters )

A fire erupted at an illegal oil well in Indonesia on Wednesday killing least 18 people and injuring 41 as they scrambled to collect oil after the well overflowed, authorities said.

Flames towered over houses and trees as firefighters hosed down the area while villagers watched, in pictures posted on social media by Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the spokesman of Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency.

"There was panic among the public because the fire is in a residential area," said Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said. 

The fire broke out in the east Aceh district in the early hours of Wednesday, after a well of depth 250 metres (820 ft) overflowed and residents gathered to collect the oil, the agency added.

Dozens of people were being rushed to hospital in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, it said, adding that state oil firm Pertamina was providing equipment to help control the fire.

The head of police in east Aceh said the oil well might have been drilled illegally and the fire might have been started when someone was smoking a cigarette.

"This is illegal drilling," said Roberth MV Dumatubun, a spokesman for at PT Pertamina EP, a subsidiary of state oil firm Pertamina.

"It was a well made and managed by the residents there. Incidents like these are likely to happen because they don't pay attention to elements like safety."