Image: Indonesian police officers check dead bodies after an explosion at a fireworks factory at Kosambi village in Tangerang, Banten province, Indonesia October 26, 2017. Antara Foto/Muhammad Iqbal via REUTERS
By Kanupriya Kapoor
KOSAMBI, Indonesia (Reuters) – Two explosions tore through a fireworks factory on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital on Thursday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens.
It was one of Indonesia’s worst industrial disasters and is likely to cast a new spotlight on lax safety standards in the Southeast Asian country, where rules are often ignored or weakly enforced.
Workers had no time to escape from the plant in Tangerang, an industrial and manufacturing hub to the west of Jakarta, after the explosions that one neighbour described as a “roar” that could be heard miles away.
A video of the scene inside the warehouse, widely shared on social media, showed charred bodies sprawled about the burnt-out factory, and Reuters reporters at the scene saw grass scorched over an area about 10 metres (33 feet) from the site.
“People were burned so badly you couldn’t see their faces … It was really bad,” said search and rescue official Deden Nurjaman, who expected the death toll to climb as more bodies were found inside the factory.
Fireworks are frequently used in Indonesia for religious and other celebrations, and are widely available.
There have been a series of major fires in Indonesia this year, including one that engulfed one of Jakarta’s main markets.
Thick, dark plumes of smoke billowed from the factory through the afternoon as an inferno took hold. As night fell, the PT Panca Buana Cahaya Sukses warehouse was still smouldering and there was a stench of chemicals and burning plastic.
Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Metro Television that 47 bodies had been discovered, 46 people were injured and 10 people were unaccounted for. He said the missing might have left with light injuries or not have been working at the time.
One of the first policemen on the scene, Raymond Masengi, told Metro TV that he and other officers had to smash holes in the factory wall to help the injured escape.
Fiza, a doctor in the emergency unit at Tangerang General Hospital, said he was treating seven people, some of them with burns to more than 80 percent of their bodies. Three were in critical condition.
A nearby mosque held prayers for the victims.
(This version of the story corrects typo in second paragraph)
“LIKE A ROAR”
Forensic police worked in fading light to examine the debris, setting up a few floodlights to try and establish the cause of the blaze.
Yuwono said police were looking into the permit of the factory, which was close to a school and housing and – according to media reports – had been operating for only two months.
A witness who lives around the corner from the factory said she heard an explosion “like a roar”.
“I dressed and stepped outside the house, and saw the flames, they were almost in my face. The smoke, the heat was in my face. I panicked, I was scared, I picked up my son and ran away from the fire,” said Kartini, 40, who uses one name, like many Indonesians.
Hundreds of children at a school just 100 metres (yards) from the factory jumped in terror over a wall as the explosions boomed, dropping books and bags in their haste to get away.
Science teacher Asep Mahmud, 47, said: “There were several small explosions and then one really big one that shook our buildings and desks.”
(Additional reporting by Jessica Damiana, Kartika Theresia, Beawiharta and Fergus Jensen; Writing by John Chalmers and Ed Davies; editing by Mark Heinrich)
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