Firefighters extinguished the blaze — which was mostly contained within one block that housed prisoners jailed on drug charges — at around 3:00 am (2000 GMT Tuesday) and evacuated the victims. Television footage showed a massive fire raging through the prison block, with thick smoke billowing from the building as firefighters raced to put out the flames.
“Forty-one inmates died, eight were badly injured and 72 others sustained minor injuries,” Jakarta police chief Fadil Imran told a press conference.
Authorities were still investigating the cause of the incident at Tangerang Penitentiary, just outside the capital Jakarta, but suspected an electrical fault may have been to blame.
“I have checked the scene. Based on early observation, it is suspected (the fire) happened because of a short circuit,” Imran said.
The penitentiary department’s website showed that the jail had just over 2,000 inmates, more than three times as many prisoners as it was designed to hold.
The block where the fire broke out had a maximum capacity of 40 inmates but housed 120, penitentiary directorate general spokesperson Rika Aprianti told Metro TV.