Nearly 1000 evacuated, at least 5 injured as massive blaze ravages Indonesian oil refinery (VIDEOS)

An oil refinery, located in West Java province of Indonesia, has caught up fire amid reports a loud bang was heard before the facility went up in flames. Some 950 people have been evacuated, and several have been injured.

The fire at the Balongan oil refinery, operated by Pertamina, Indonesia state-owned oil and natural gas company, erupted on Monday morning local time.

Videos purportedly filmed not far from the scene of the incident show columns of fire turning the predawn skies yellow.

Huge pillars of smoke can be seen billowing from the site.

One video shows visibly distressed locals scream and flee for safety as a distinctive loud sound, similar to that of an explosion, can be heard in the background.

Some 950 people have been evacuated from the area, as firefighters struggle to extinguish the flames.

Local media reported, citing witnesses, that the blaze could be seen from a distance as far as 5 km (3,1 mi) away from the facility.

At least five people have suffered injuries as result of the incident, with Pertamina saying that they were being treated for burns. 

While it’s unclear what might have triggered the fire, a witness, cited by Indonesia’ Republica daily, said that the area was rocked by the bolts of lightning and thunder before he heard what he described “a sound of an explosion” from the refinery.

The operator of the facility also suggested that the bad weather might be the culprit in the case.

“The cause of the fire is unknown, but during the incident there was heavy rain and lightning,” the company said, as cited by Reuters.

The Balongan refinery, located some  200 km (124 mi) east of the capital Jakarta, kicked off its operation in 1994. Last month, Pertamina announced it embarked on increasing the facility’s production capacity from 125 MBSD (million barrels of steam per day) to 150 MBSD. The upgrade was expected to “increase national energy security,” according to the company.

In addition to upping its capacity, the company plans to build a petrochemical plant, linked to the refinery. The project, which is being implemented together with Taiwan’s CPC Corp, will see the future plant and the refinery be integrated into a single complex worth some $12 billion. The construction is set to be completed by 2026.

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