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41 prisoners perish in lock-up as overcrowded Indonesian jail catches fire

The block of cells in the overcrowded Tangerang prison in Banten on the outskirts of Jakarta which caught fire were locked and in the raging blaze they could not be opened. These cells were holding 122 inmates while they had a capacity to accommodate only 38 prisoners. The electrical wirings in the cells are of 1972 when the prison was built.

JAKARTA, Sept 9: Forty-one prisoners died and 80 suffered burns in a massive fire in the overcrowded jail near Jakarta in Indonesia on Wednesday. None of the jailers were injured. There were 13 of them on duty in the jail taking care of as many as 2,000 prisoners. The cells were locked at the time of the fire and in the raging blaze they could not be opened.

The fire broke out at 1:45 am in Block C2 of the Tangerang prison in Banten on the outskirts of Jakarta. The fire gutted a block of cells which were holding over 122 inmates while it had a capacity to accommodate only 38 prisoners. The prison was holding a total of 2,000 inmates. There are a total of 268,610 inmates in all of Indonesia's prisons, which were built to hold 132,107 people.

According to initial findings, the fire was caused by electric short circuit, Jakarta police chief Fadil Imran said. The electrical wirings date back to the year 1972 when the prison was built.

After the firefighters extinguished the blaze, the Red Cross personnel moved the bodies in ambulances to the mortuary in the nearby hospital for identification. Relatives of prisoners poured in to check if any of theirs were among those killed or injured.

Two of the victims were from South Africa and Portugal each. Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasona Laoly told reporters that most of those died were drug convicts. "We are working closely with all relevant parties to investigate the cause of the fire," he said.

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