Mon, 22 Mar 1999

Infant among four dead in restaurant blaze

JAKARTA (JP): Four people, including a three-year-old boy, were killed in a fire which gutted a noodle restaurant on Jl. Mangga Besar VII in West Jakarta early Sunday morning.

All the fatalities were restaurant employees who lived in the four-story building. The first floor was used for the restaurant operation, named Bakmi Mangga Besar.

The fire, believed to have been caused by a gas stove explosion, caused millions of rupiah in material losses. Almost all the furniture and kitchen equipment, as well as clothing and other valuable goods were burned,

Restaurant cashier Dumaria Hasugian, said identification of the victims -- Dessiana, 25, Manukar Hasugian, 17 (Dumaria's younger brother), Agus Hermanto, 26 and his three-year-old son Agus Kristia -- was impossible.

The restaurant's owner, Jimmy, was unavailable for comment, as he was reportedly being questioned by local police.

The blaze happened at 5 a.m. Dumaria said.

"The incident started when Agus Hermanto and his son were trying to fix gas stoves. As one of the stoves was lit, however, it suddenly exploded."


Another employee, Yunus, who was standing outside the building when the incident occurred, said he heard a blast from the first floor and saw flames rapidly spread to the upper floors.

"After the blast, I saw my friends' shadows on the third and fourth floors running and screaming for help," Yunus, who suffered minor burns to the face, said.

Witnesses said one of the victims, Dessiana, better known as Dessi, managed to carry one of her boss' children through the fire to safety.

However, after placing the child outside the building, she rushed into the building, disregarding warnings from bystanders.

"No one knows why Dessi insisted on going inside," an aunt, Elly, said.

She said her niece had plans to marry and had asked her to be her guardian.

"Dessi had no parents. Her father left her mother early and the mother died of cancer when Dessi was only seven years old," Elly said.

Dessi's only younger sister, Meidi, was adopted by relatives who moved to Australia.

"She (Dessi) was a kind and tough girl, who never complained about anything including her harsh life," Elly said.

Another relative Rudy, said he had frequently warned Dessi not to stay in the shop-house as the Mangga Besar area was not a safe place, especially for Chinese-Indonesians.

Rudy said Dessi was not afraid to live in the area, believing that if she was kind to other people similar acts would be returned to her.

"Near the shop-house, there are gambling dens and entertainment spots, such as massage parlors and discotheques which often illegally operate until the early morning," Rudy said.

He said he had often heard locals issue threats to attack the entertainment spots and gambling dens if they continued their illegal business practices.

When he heard the shop-house was burned, he assumed the disaster was the result of a clash between the entertainment spot's business owners and residents.

"I was only informed of the truth after my aunt explained that the fire was caused by an exploding stove."

Rudy said after the post mortem examination was performed, Dessi would be buried next to her mother's grave at Petamburan public cemetery. (emf)