Mon, 23 Sep 2002

Two detained in fatal blast as death toll rises to 16

Agus Maryono, The Jakarta Post, Tegal, Central Java

Two suspects are in police custody after a fatal firecracker explosion at a factory in Tegal, Central Java claimed the lives of 16 workers on Sunday.

Tegal deputy police chief Yohanes Edy Kusnowo told The Jakarta Post on Sunday that the two suspects were both residents of Tegal.

"We are detaining Edy Sukamto, who runs the factory, and Kosasih, who applied for the factory's license," Edy Kusnowo said.

The two are being held at Tegal Police station and are being interrogated.

Edy Kusnowo said the number of those killed at the Tegal firecracker factory rose to 16 on Sunday.

"Six died instantly after the explosion, nine died at the hospital, and one was dead on arrival," he said.

Edy Kusnowo said 12 of the victims were women.

Nine others are listed in critical condition at the Dr. Soesilo Hospital in Tegal.

Edy Kusnowo said that police investigators were trying to determine the main cause of the explosion.

"It is very likely that the materials used to make firecrackers and the fireworks caught fire," he said.

It is not known if the plant had obtained a permit to produce firecrackers from the police. Although Kosasih had reportedly secured a license three years ago, the plant was not in operation until eight months ago.

"We don't know yet if the permit was issued or not. We will know after we complete the investigation of the two suspects," Edy Kusnowo said.

The first report on Saturday said 10 people were killed instantly in the explosion that also left nearby buildings damaged.

There are about 40 workers at the plant, mostly women.

Last month, at least 12 people died and 18 were injured when a crowded passenger bus carrying firecrackers exploded and caught fire in Lohbener district, Indramayu, West Java.

Firecrackers, which are used in rural areas to celebrate weddings, circumcisions, and other festivities, are officially banned in Indonesia but security personnel are rarely implementing the law.