JAKARTA, Indonesia — Police said Saturday that an inferno at a firework factory near Indonesia’s capital that killed 48 people was started by sparks from a welder’s torch.

The welder, Subarna Ega, is believed to have accidentally caused Thursday’s fire in Tangerang, a satellite city of Jakarta, said police spokesman Argo Yuwono. Police are looking for Ega, while two other suspects — the factory’s owner and its operational director — are in custody.

Yuwono said at a news conference Saturday that the sparks from Ega’s welding struck the fireworks and triggered the flames.

Officials said bodies were found piled at the rear of the factory and that many were burned beyond recognition.

The death toll climbed to 48 after a worker who had suffered extensive burns died in a hospital Saturday, said Jakarta police official Nico Afinta.

Afinta said the fire could have been prevented if the factory owner had observed safety protocols.

Among those who died in the blaze was a 14-year-old girl who police said was known as Surnah.

The death toll could rise as many of those who escaped suffered extensive burns, according to police.

Forty-six injured people were taken to three hospitals. As of Saturday, 27 remained hospitalized, some in critical condition.

Afinta said some teenagers aged 15-17 were among the injured victims. They were employed without contracts and paid only 40,000 rupiah, or $3, a day, far below the minimum wage for the Tangerang region of about $250 a month, Afinta said.

The legal age to work in Indonesia is 15, but climbs to 18 if the work is considered hazardous.

Police arrested Indra Liyono and Andri Hartanto, the owner and the operational director of the factory, which had 103 employees, for allegedly employing underage workers and violating regional minimum wage standards and negligence causing death.

The three men face up to five years in prison if found guilty, Afinta said.


This story has been corrected to show that police are looking for Ega, who is not in custody.

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