October 28, 2017 / 7:15 AM / in a month

Indonesia detains owner after deadly fireworks factory blaze

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian authorities have detained a fireworks factory owner and a manager on suspicion of negligence after explosions and fire ripped through a warehouse on the outskirts of Jakarta, killing 48 workers and injuring dozens, police said on Saturday.

A police officer is seen at the site of an explosion at a fireworks factory at Kosambi village in Tangerang, Banten province, Indonesia, October 27, 2017. Antara Foto/Sigid Kurniawan via REUTERS

The blaze in the manufacturing hub of Tangerang was one of the worst industrial disasters to hit Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, where safety standards are often weakly enforced. Police said the fire started when sparks from a welding operation lit a stack of raw materials used for making fireworks, causing at least two explosions that could be heard miles away.

“The men are suspected of negligence that led to deaths,” said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono.

The owner of the PT Panca Buana Cahaya Sukses factory and an operations manager were detained while police looked for the welder. The owner was also suspected of employing underage workers, police said. Neither of the two detained was available for comment.

Tangerang regent Ahmed Zaki said on Friday that the company, which had been operating for two months, had a permit for packaging but not producing fireworks.

Preliminary investigations and witness accounts showed that more than 30 victims were found at the back of the factory, where they had run to try to escape while others had to break holes in the walls to get out.

Police denied reports that the front gate and only exit of the factory was locked at the time of the fire.

All bodies, many of them charred beyond recognition, had been taken away from the gutted factory, and family members were providing DNA samples to try to identify them.

Dozens of workers have been admitted to hospital with burns of up to 80 percent of their bodies. Hospital officials said some remained in critical condition and expected the death toll to rise.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Nick Macfie

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