At least 260 firefighters and 52 fire engines extinguished the blaze just before midnight on Friday after it raged through the neighborhood for more than two hours, fire officials said.
Footage showed hundreds of people running in panic as thick plumes of black smoke and orange flames filled the air.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited the fire-affected areas on Sunday morning to reassure people that the government would help those in need.
Widodo said he has instructed the minister of state-owned enterprises and the governor of Jakarta to immediately find a way to move residents away from the fuel depot or move the depot away from the area.
“Not just in here, but all vital state assets should be checked and re-evaluated to determine a safe buffer zone for the community, because human lives are at stake,” Widodo told reporters after visiting a temporary shelter for displaced persons in northern America. The Koja district in Jakarta.
National police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo said a preliminary investigation showed the fire was caused by a technical problem with overpressure when the depot was receiving fuel from Pertamina’s Balongan refinery in West Java province.
“It has been discovered that a fire started during the filling of Pertamax fuel,” Listyo told a news conference late Saturday, referring to a type of fuel oil produced by Pertamina.
He did not elaborate because detectives from Pertamina and the police were still working to confirm the cause of the fire, including questioning dozens of witnesses and examining video recordings from surveillance cameras.
Local residents who lived near the depot said they smelled a strong smell of gasoline that caused some people to vomit, after which there was two thunders followed by a huge explosion.
Sri Haryati, a mother of three, said the fire started to spread about 20 minutes later and caused panic.
“I cried and immediately grabbed our valuable documents and ran away with my husband and children,” said Haryati, adding that she heard smaller explosions that echoed through the neighborhood as orange flames leaped from the depot.
Rescue workers were still looking for three missing persons. About 35 people were treated in five hospitals, some of them in critical condition.
Listyo said more than 1,300 people were displaced and took refuge in 10 government offices, a Red Cross command post and a sports stadium.
Nicke Widyawati, head of Pertamina, apologized and said the company would help the community and cooperate with the investigation.
“We will conduct a thorough review and reflection internally to prevent similar incidents from happening again,” Widyawati said in a statement, adding that the company ensured the safe supply of fuel oil.
On Saturday, grieving relatives gathered at the morgue of a police hospital in East Jakarta to try to identify their loved ones. Officials said the victims were burned beyond recognition and could only be identified by DNA and dental records.
In 2014, a fire at the same fuel depot destroyed at least 40 homes, but there were no casualties.
Indonesia’s state-owned enterprise minister Erick Thohir told reporters that the government will redesign safe zones for residential areas away from vital objects.
He said the incident showed that the Plumpang area is not safe for the community, and that the government plans to move the fuel storage depot to Tanjung Priok Port in northern Jakarta.