Indonesian fireworks inferno: Investigation begins

  • 28/10/2017
fireworks factory
Safety laws are inconsistently enforced or even completely ignored in Indonesia. Photo credit: Reuters

Indonesian police say they are questioning the owner of a fireworks factory that exploded into an inferno, killing at least 47 people.

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of Thursday's fire at the factory in Tangerang, near the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

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 US$4 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 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 recognise," 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 followed by smaller blasts as orange flames jumped from the building and columns of black smoke billowed across a nearby residential neighbourhood.

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.

Some 46 injured people are being treated at three hospitals.

The death toll could rise as many of those who escaped suffered extensive burns, according to police.