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Tuesday, 9 July, 2002, 06:28 GMT 07:28 UK
Indonesian police hunt bar owner
Indonesian rescue workers evacuate an injured man from the bar in Palembang
Rescuers are continuing their search
Police in Indonesia say they are hunting for the owner of a karaoke bar on the island of Sumatra in which at least 42 people died in a fire.

They said the manager of Heppi Karaoke, where the blaze broke out on Sunday afternoon, had already been detained for questioning.

Firefighting officials said they had found between 44 and 52 bodies, although police said they could only confirm 42 deaths.

All said the death toll was likely to rise, as rescuers prepared to enter the top floor which had earlier been too hot to approach.

Officials said the bar complex lacked comprehensive fire-safety features and had also violated its building permit by adding two additional floors without government consent.

Manager in custody

Police in the South Sumatran capital Palembang, about 420km (250 miles) northwest of Jakarta, where the fire broke out, said they were trying to decide whether to press criminal charges.

"We have the manager in our custody. We're questioning him as a witness first, but we will indeed determine if the incident can be linked to the criminal code," South Sumatra police spokesman Arum Priyono told Reuters news agency.

"The most wanted man now is (the owner). He was in Jakarta when the incident occurred and promised to come back immediately, but his whereabouts now are unclear."

Officials could not confirm what started the fire, in which an unknown number of people were also injured, but local media reported it was caused by a short circuit.

Poor safety

Bastoni, the head of the fire brigade at Palembang, said his crew had found inadequate safety provisions in the building.

He said only a limited number of fire-extinguishers were found, and from the second floor up, the building was "a maze of small rooms". It was also reported to have lacked emergency exits or stairs.

Mr Priyono said police had had to blast a hole into the upper floors of Heppi Karaoke to allow others to escape.

Police said some of those who died jumped to their deaths to escape the blaze.

Many establishments in Indonesia, where corruption is rife and officials rarely make checks, ignore safety rules.

See also:

08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
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