Factory owner probed after fire kills 47

By: AP October 27,2017 - 11:18 PM

Tangerang, Indonesia — Indonesian police on Friday said they were questioning the owner of a fireworks factory that exploded into an inferno, killing at least 47 people, and have accounted for the safety of three of 10 workers still missing.

Investigators were trying to determine the cause of Thursday’s fire at the factory in Tangerang, near the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, and said they didn’t want to speculate before the investigation is completed.

Safety laws are inconsistently enforced or even completely ignored in Indonesia, a poor and sprawling archipelago nation where worker rights are often treated as a lower priority than economic growth and jobs. Most of the factory’s 103 employees were young women earning about 3 a day.

“We are now intensively questioning witnesses including the factory owner and manager,” said Tangerang police chief Harry Kurniawan.

As investigators tried to piece together what happened, relatives crushed by grief went to a police hospital’s morgue in eastern Jakarta Friday morning to identify loved ones.

Officials said bodies were found piled at the rear of the factory and were burned beyond recognition.

“The condition of the corpses was hard to recognize,” said Umar Shahab, who heads the medical and health division of the Jakarta police. “They can only be identified through DNA and dental data.”

Survivors told authorities the fire started in a section of the factory where fireworks are dried.

Witnesses heard a huge explosion about 10 a.m. Thursday, followed by smaller blasts as orange flames jumped from the building and columns of black smoke billowed across a nearby residential neighborhood.

Survivor Ahmad Safri said the workers had poor working conditions in a hot warehouse with noisy engines, but he denied the building was locked when the fire spread.

“Many panicking workers ran in the wrong direction … maybe to a generator room that was locked,” Safri said.

He said some workers were young women and teenagers, but he was not sure if any were underage.

Kurniawan said one of the three people no longer listed as missing was a woman who left the factory before the fire broke out. Two were men who escaped and didn’t report to police until Friday morning.

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