KOSAMBI, Indonesia (Reuters) – Indonesian investigators combed a burnt-out fireworks factory on Friday after blasts killed 47 people and injured dozens, as doctors treated survivors suffering from horrific burns of up to 80 percent of their bodies.
Many workers had no time to escape from the plant in Tangerang, an industrial and manufacturing hub near Jakarta, after Thursday’s explosions.
Police and residents broke holes in the walls of the factory to help trapped workers forced back by the intense heat from the fire caused by the fireworks blasts — one of Indonesia’s worst industrial disasters.
Tangerang police chief Harry Kurniawan said authorities were still investigating the cause of the fire and denied reports that the gates at the factory had been locked.
“According to eyewitnesses who were injured and are now at the hospital, some of the victims escaped or were rescued through the main gate, so the gate was open,” Kurniawan told Reuters. He said investigations so far did not show any underage workers had been at the factory.
Officials have warned that the death toll could rise.
Yudi Firmansyah, a Tangerang General Hospital spokesman, said it was treating 12 patients some of whom were suffering burns to between 40-80 percent of their bodies.
“We’re an emergency unit so we’ve seen things before. But this is a special case because…it was a mass event. There have been a lot of patients to handle,” said Firmansyah.
Hospital records seen by Reuters showed two of the patients were aged 15 and 16.
”We are expecting treatment to take a long time. First there’s the life-saving stage, then further treatment to prevent infections, and cosmetic procedures. It’s hard to say but it can take several procedures, months,” added Firmansyah.
Victims in orange body bags were transported to a police hospital in East Jakarta for identification by families.
Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono has said authorities were looking into the permit of the factory, that according to media reports had been operating for only two months.
The owner of the PT Panca Buana Cahaya Sukses warehouse, which was close to a school and housing, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Taufiqulhadi, a member of a parliamentary committee on law and rights, told Media Indonesia that fireworks factories needed to be better controlled because of the risks they pose.
“We hope the police are more careful going forward,” said Taufiqulhadi, who uses one name like many Indonesians.
Additional reporting by Fergus Jensen and Fransiska Nangoy; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Michael Perry