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Jakarta fires rise to alarming number, short circuits primary cause

Publication Date : 01-08-2012


The Jakarta administration recorded a total of 530 fires from January to July this year, which together claimed 31 lives and caused estimated total losses of more than 172.4 billion rupiah (US$18.2 million).

The figure was far higher than the 300 incidents recorded within the same period last year. Throughout 2011, there was a total of 948 incidents, which resulted in the deaths of 18 civilians and injuries to 87 others plus 13 firefighters. Total losses incurred amounted to 217 billion rupiah.

Data released yesterday from the City Fire Agency showed that a total of 70 people had been injured in the fires so far this year and a total of 3,144 families, comprising 11,686 people, lost their homes.

East Jakarta saw the highest number of fires with 133 incidents; West Jakarta was second with 116; and North Jakarta was third with 104.

South Jakarta and Central Jakarta recorded 98 and 79 blazes, respectively.

There were a total of 20 incidents in July alone. The latest, which broke out during the weekend, claimed the lives of two children after a fire gutted more than 200 houses in Pekojan subdistrict, Tambora in West Jakarta.

Rimawati, the agency's head for public participation, said that electrical failings were behind most of the cases.

"A total of 371 incidents, or 70 per cent of all the fires since the start of the year, were caused by short circuits," Rimawati said. Exploding stoves were blamed for 57 incidents, while unextinguished cigarette butts were fire-starters in 16 other cases. Last year, faulty wiring resulting from illegal connections were the cause of 60 per cent of all fires.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi said previously in a statement that fires in Jakarta accounted for 15 per cent of all fires across the archipelago in 2011.

The Jakarta administration has called on state electricity company, PT PLN, to help curb illegal and dangerous electrical connections.

Since last year, firefighters, public order officers and PLN officials have conducted joint raids on neighbourhoods known to have set up illegal power rigs.

The raids have focused on 35 working-class neighbourhoods that are notorious for frequent fires, including Tambora and Pademangan in West Jakarta, Penjaringan and Cilincing in North Jakarta, and Cipinang and Cakung in East Jakarta.

Fires in these neighbourhoods are notoriously difficult to handle, as houses tend to be closely packed together and made from flammable materials. They also lack access to water hydrants or water sources.

The administration has begun drafting a new bylaw that would give authority to the administration — in addition to PLN — to clamp down on illegal power connections.

Governor Fauzi Bowo said the primary goal of the planned bylaw was to reduce electricity theft and, in turn, prevent fires.

More than 40 per cent of Jakarta residents are connected to the city's electrical grid via illegal connections. The often jury-rigged connections are prone to short-circuit, which can then cause a fire.

Under the planned bylaw, the city could stipulate that only legal residents with building permits would be allowed to request an electrical connection from PLN.

The city also expects to have the authority to dispatch officials to investigate illegal power rigs and file reports with local PLN branches.


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