Indonesia oil well explosion death toll climbs to 21

An Indonesian fire fighters battles to extinguish a fire at an illegal oil well in Peureulak on April 25, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 26 April 2018
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Indonesia oil well explosion death toll climbs to 21

  • An oil spill sparked a huge fire that shot up some 70 meters in the air, above homes and palm trees in a residential area on Sumatra island’s Aceh province
  • The latest toll was more than double an initial count of 10 as more victims succumbed to their injuries in hospital following the accident early Wednesday morning

PEUREULAK: The death toll from an oil well explosion in Indonesia has climbed to 21, with dozens of others in hospital, authorities said Thursday, as they extinguished the towering blaze.
The latest toll was more than double an initial count of 10 as more victims succumbed to their injuries in hospital following the accident early Wednesday morning.
An oil spill sparked a huge fire that shot up some 70 meters (230 feet) in the air, above homes and palm trees in a residential area on Sumatra island’s Aceh province.
Several houses were also destroyed in the explosion in the village of Peureulak until authorities finally managed to snuff out the blaze.
“The fire has been extinguished now.... We are still monitoring the injured and the situation at the accident,” said Henny Nurmayani, an official at Aceh’s disaster mitigation agency.
Three dozen victims remain in hospital, she added.
The victims were collecting oil from around the entrance of the illegal old well bore when the fire erupted, police said.
Authorities are still investigating the accident, but suggested a lit cigarette as a possible cause.
“There were many people there who were smoking,” national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said earlier.
“It’s a village, so many were scrambling to get oil and it was crowded.”
East Aceh is dotted with numerous small-scale oil drilling operations, which are often run illegally by local villagers.
There are reportedly tens of thousands of such wells across the Indonesian archipelago.
Abandoned oil wells are sometimes re-tapped while locals also drill into fresh sites to find new sources.
Deadly fires are not uncommon in Indonesia, a sprawling country of more than 260 million people where safety regulations are often flouted.
In October 47 people died after a blaze tore through a fireworks factory outside Jakarta.


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 25 min 29 sec ago

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.