Authorities reported Wednesday that a fire at a jail in Indonesia killed at least 41 people and injured eight more, adding to the feeling of urgency in the country's overcrowded jail system, which the COVID-19 pandemic has already battered. 

According to Rika Aprianti, a spokesperson for the Directorate General of Prisons, the cause of the fire at the Tangerang jail, some 25 miles west of the nation's capital of Jakarta, is still being investigated.However, the Jakarta police believe a short circuit caused it in the prison's electrical system. 

Dozens of inmates die following prison fire

On Wednesday morning, a picture of dozens of orange body bags laying on the floor of a hospital was shown on Indonesian national television, bringing the fire's human toll home. The minister of law and human rights, Yasonna Laoly, visited the jail on Wednesday to examine the damage and said he had directed personnel to focus on the facility's evacuation and the recovery of the victims.

According to the police, eight individuals were badly hurt in the fire, while local media stated that more than 70 people were injured in lesser ways. Officials added that all of those slain were detainees. The fire started about 1:45 a.m. in a cell block for narcotics-related inmates, The New York Times reported.

Per RT, local media footage of firemen battling the blaze has gone viral, implying that the fire has spread over a major section of the structure. The fires were eventually limited to one cell block. While the origin of the fire is still being investigated, police spokesperson Yusri Yunus informed local media that a short circuit sparked the inferno in one of the prison's blocks. 

Tangerang Prison was built to hold around 1,225 inmates and is located in an industrial region outside of Jakarta. It is mostly used to jail drug offenders. Prior to Wednesday's fire, however, the institution housed more than 2,000 inmates, according to Aprianti, who noted that the C Block was overcrowded with 122 detainees at the time of the disaster. The jail had a capacity of only 600 people, according to official statistics.

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Jail overcrowding is one of Indonesia's dilemma

Fifteen prison guards protecting the cellblock were unharmed, the spokesman for the Justice Ministry's prisons department confirmed. Laoly promised to take measures to prevent a repeat catastrophe, including repairing power outages in 477 prisons across the huge archipelago nation.

In Indonesia, where overcrowding has become an issue in jails coping with low budgets and high numbers of inmates imprisoned in a war on illegal drugs, jailbreaks, and riots that result in a fire are widespread.

Prisoners enraged by limits on family visits and the early release of 115 other inmates to prevent the spread of the coronavirus set fire to jail on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi in April of last year. During a riot earlier in 2020, prisoners set fire to jail in Banda Aceh, although no one was killed as a result of the fires, The Charlotte Observer reported.

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