Fri, 12 Sep 2003

Batam council unaware of hotels' safety systems

Fadli, The Jakarta Post, Batam, Riau

An executive of the Batam chapter of the Indonesian Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) has warned of further hotel fires, due to the poor safety systems in most hotels here.

Anas, treasurer of PHRI Batam and owner of the Novotel Batam Hotel, said things had worsened as local authorities did not regularly check hotels' safety systems.

"The government has generously rated hotels without examining the requisite facilities for such ratings," Anas said.

He was commenting on developments in the safety standard of hotels on the blossoming industrial island following the Harmoni Hotel fire on Sunday that killed four people, including a Singaporean, and injured 22 others.

Anas said neither the municipal administration nor the Batam authority had any clear criteria as to rating hotels, indicating their ignorance of the required safety standards for specific ratings.

"People now feel that hotels in Batam are unsafe at night or in the event of an emergency. The occupancy rate here has declined since the accident, although I don't know by how much," he said.

A fire damaged the Harmoni Hotel on Jl. Imam Bonjol, Nagoya, Batu Ampar subdistrict, at dawn on Sunday, a few hours after it had hosted a wedding party at its 9th-floor ballroom. The party had ended by midnight.

Two of the four victims died after jumping from the hotel's seventh and third floors respectively, to escape the thick smoke in their rooms.

The police's forensic laboratory said a short circuit was the most likely cause of the fire. Chief of Batam Police Adj. Sr. Comr. Suhartono, however, said further investigation would be carried out on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors to confirm the result of the forensic tests.

Anas said regular assessments of safety systems should be conducted by local government officials every six months.

"But this routine security check doesn't happen. We can't do anything but remind all of our members," Anas said.

Of the 43 hotels in Batam, 30 are PHRI members.

When contacted, Harmoni Hotel general manager Angeline Loo declined to comment on the hotel's safety system.

Chairman of the Batam authority board Ismeth Abdullah said he would set up a team to examine the safety systems and facilities at all 43 hotels here.

"We will make sure there will be no more hotel fires in Batam," said Ismeth.