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Police arrest Indonesia business owner after deadly fire

June 23, 2019
Police tape is set up around a match factory after a fire in Langkat, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Friday, June 21, 2019. A number of people including children were killed in the fire that swept through a house that doubled as a match factory, a disaster official said Friday. (AP Photo)
Police tape is set up around a match factory after a fire in Langkat, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Friday, June 21, 2019. A number of people including children were killed in the fire that swept through a house that doubled as a match factory, a disaster official said Friday. (AP Photo)

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police have arrested the owner and two managers of an unregulated factory in North Sumatra that was engulfed by a fire that killed 30 people, a spokesman said Sunday.

The three suspects could each face five years in prison if found guilty of negligence leading to deaths, said North Sumatra province police spokesman Tatan Dirsan Atmaja.

The business was operating from a house in the North Sumatra district of Langkat and reportedly made match sticks and lighters.

Its female employees were trapped in Friday’s blaze by a locked door. Five children died in the inferno and only four people escaped, Atmaja said.

A preliminary investigation found the blaze may have started with a worker testing the “spark wheel” of a lighter and inadvertently igniting other flammable agents including a gas canister, he said.

The suspects — two men and a woman — were arrested in the provincial capital Medan on Saturday.

So far police forensic experts have identified seven bodies, said Atmaja.

Millions of Indonesians work in unsafe conditions in informal or poorly regulated industries and accidents and fatalities are common.

Dozens died in the collapse of an unlicensed gold mine in North Sulawesi in February, and at least 47 people including underage workers were killed by a blaze at a fireworks factory in a Jakarta satellite city in October 2017.

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