Mon, 06 Mar 2000

Man, pregnant lover die in Tambora fire

JAKARTA (JP): A 48-year-old butcher and his pregnant 38-year- old live-in girlfriend were burned to death in a fire that razed their small two-story rented house in Tambora district, West Jakarta, in the early hours of Saturday.

The fire, believed to have been caused by a short circuit in a fan in the couple's room, also forced occupants of a neighboring house to hastily move the corpse of a man, who had died several hours earlier and was being kept at the house awaiting burial.

Local police are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Witnesses and a relative of one of the victims said the fire was first spotted at 2 a.m. at the top room of the victims' rented house.

The fire also partly burned two neighboring houses. All of the houses were made of plywood.

Knowing that access to the scene was too narrow for fire engines, neighbors did their best to jointly put out the fire.

The couple were identified as Liong Ben Fu, alias Loli, a pig butcher, and his live-in partner, Sumiyati, by Yanto, Loli's brother.

Yanto said the couple were asleep on the first floor of the two-meter-by-two-meter two-story house when the fire broke out.

"It's a small, old house with bad electrical installation," said Yanto, who lives nearby.

Neighbors Bukhari and Endi said that several people had tried to wake the victims but the door was locked.

Yanto said he knew there was a fire but went back to sleep. He had no idea that the blaze had taken the lives of his brother and Sumiyati until he was informed a few minutes later by neighbors.

"They were still laying on the bed. I could only recognize them from their teeth because their faces could no longer be recognized," Yanto said sadly at the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital.

He said that Sumiyati was four months pregnant.

The couple had just moved into the house a month ago, paying Rp 75,000 per month rent.

"She was a hooker at the Kalijodo red-light district in West Jakarta, where my brother met her a year ago.

"It seemed to me that my brother had pulled her out of prostitution and they had decided to live together and start making a good family," Yanto said.

He added that the couple planned to get marry in Sumiyati's hometown in Kendal, Central Java, next month.

Both bodies, he said, would be buried in the Tegal Alur cemetery, West Jakarta.

Head of the local neighborhood, Laman, said the only valuable things saved from the fire was Rp 256,000 (US$35) in cash and a five-gram gold necklace.

"We will hand them over to the families of the victims," he said.

Laman, however, regretted that a television set and money being collected in a bucket by neighbors and relatives of the dead man, who had died earlier on Friday, were stolen by those who helped extinguish the fire.

The owner of the rented house, Liah, said Loli and Sumiyati had only a few things in their room.

"All they had was a big bag of clothes, a kapok mattress and a wall fan," she said.

Separately on Saturday, a paper factory was partly burned in nearby Kalideres. No fatalities were reported. (06/asa)