The police's ongoing probe into the lighter factory fire that killed 30 on Friday has revealed that the business was operating illegally, which ultimately led to the horrific deaths of many of the factory's employees.
According to the North Sumatra Police, the owners of the factory illegally repurposed a house to make it into the lighter production facility. To avoid taxes and government officials, the front door of the house/factory was always locked in order to give the impression that the house was empty.
"So the only access for entry and exit [for the employees] was through the back door. During the incident, the fire came from the back of the house. All of the victims were found in one room because they could not escape through the front door, which is always locked," North Sumatra Police Spokesman Tatan Atmaja told reporters today, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
"This home industry was definitely illegal because it had no permit."
Police have arrested two of the business' owners and a supervisor, who have all been charged with neglect to ensure the workers' safety as well as operating an unlicensed factory. They could each face up to five years in prison.
Authorities say the fire broke out in the factory when a worker was conducting a test of their product. A gas lighter exploded and the panicked worker threw it on a pile of thousands of ready-to-pack products, triggering a massive explosion.
Victims trapped inside the house could not escape because the front door was locked and the fire spread quickly because most of the house was made of wood.Twenty-five workers – all female – died in the accident. Five children – four girls and one boy – also died in the blaze.
All victims were local residents who lived near the factory while the owner and supervisor only came to monitor the business once a month.
One of four workers who survived – because they were outside during the incident – said that the children were visiting their parents who worked at the site.
– With additional reporting by AFP