Thu, 26 Oct 2000

Fire razes Pondok Gede shopping center

JAKARTA (JP): Fire razed a three-story shopping center on Jl. Raya Pondok Gede in East Jakarta on Wednesday.

The fire left the building totally ruined, but no causalities were reported in the incident.

The fire started at around 5:30 a.m. and lasted until around 5:30 p.m.. Twelve fire engines from the East Jakarta and Bekasi fire departments were still trying to put out the fire until late in the afternoon although they managed to stop it from spreading.

"The two upper floors, where the Matahari department store and the Naga Supermarket were located, are already ruined," a staffer at the Bekasi firefighter unit Suyitno told The Jakarta Post.

"We still believe that there are no casualties as the incident happened at dawn and probably all security officers managed to get out of the building," he said.

Suyitno added that the fire might have been triggered by a short-circuit in an area between the two floors. "However, officers are still trying to gather information."

The first floor of the building houses dozens of small stores and an office of Lippo Bank.

There is no immediate information from the building owner over the material losses resulting from the fire.

"We had trouble putting out the fire because two of the three water hydrants were out of order, while two nine-kilogram fire extinguishers were past their 1996 expiry date," Suyitno, who happened to conduct an inspection of the building on Friday, said.

"The only available water hydrant has been used to water the plants in the front yard of the building. So, we had to take the water from a nearby river located some 300 meters away from the building," he added.

He said that he had warned the building management about the outdated fire equipment as the building only has several windows and is full of flammable materials, including clothing and leather goods.

"However, the owner ignored the warning and now the building is totally burned," he said. reported that some scavengers and people from the surrounding areas tried to enter the burning building as they were impatient to take the remaining goods and other material from the razed stores.

Police officers, with the help of several members of the Indonesian Air Force Special Forces, had to drive these people away and even threatened to shoot if they insisted on going into the building.

The police arrested a scavenger, identified as Suhadi, for threatening the police with a saber as he tried to follow his friends into the building.

Some people, who managed to enter the building, took clothing materials, but security officers managed to control the situation.

The most recent major fire occurred in April when 93 two-story plywood shanties and a mosque in densely populated Jl. B Raya, Karang Anyar subdistrict, Sawah Besar area, were razed. Some 324 people were left homeless.

Firefighters managed to put out the fire after three hours. The effort involved 22 fire engines. (dja)