Police grills factory owner over deadly fire

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JAKARTA: The owner of an Indonesian fireworks factory where 47 people died after a blaze tore through the building is being questioned, police said Friday, as labor organizations said the incident has exposed inadequate workplace safety standards.

The ferocious fire at the factory outside Jakarta was one of Indonesia’s worst industrial accidents in recent memory—triggering explosions and sending plumes of black smoke into the air.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said investigators were still scouring the burnt-out scene and had begun interviewing witnesses, including three staff members and the owner.

PANICKED RUSH Indonesian forensic policemen work after a fire disaster in Tangerang Kota, Banten province on Thursday. AFP PHOTO

“When the incident happened the owner was in Malaysia, but he immediately returned upon hearing and he has been questioned,” Yuwono said.


Police said there were 103 workers employed at the factory at the time of the disaster and confirmed 47 people had been killed, while 46 people were being treated in hospital. Three people did not attend work on Thursday and seven are still unaccounted for.

Dozens of anxious family members gathered outside a police hospital in Kramat Jati, in east Jakarta, waiting to identify relatives’ bodies. Many of them were crying and carrying photos of loved ones.

“I was working on a construction site near the factory when I heard the explosion yesterday,” Dai, who like many Indonesians only goes by one name, told Agence France-Presse.

“I was shocked because people told me it came from my daughter’s factory so I ran there, but my daughter was already dead.”

Authorities have not yet said how the fire started, but have confirmed it began near the front door and quickly spread.

Many charred corpses were found clustered at the back of the factory, police said, indicating there may have been a panicked rush to flee the flames.

Local residents and police knocked down part of the wall of the factory compound, allowing workers to escape.

AFP

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