Tanzil was paid just $6 a day to work in a fireworks factory which became an inferno


At just 16 years old, Tanzil Alil Umam is just a boy, crying in pain from his hospital bed.

His brother sits by his side and wipes the tears from his face as they continually fall.

When we arrived at the Tangerang Regency General Hospital, Tanzil had just emerged from his sixth round of surgery on burns he suffered when a fire ripped through his place of work, a fireworks factory on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Tanzil Alil Umam was lucky to survive the blaze which killed more than 50 workers, mainly women.

His burns are extensive — to his head, arms and back — and on this day the pain is too great to sustain and he struggles to cope.

The Tangerang Regency General Hospital has no sophisticated burns unit, the treatment it can provide is basic at best.

Tanzil, a child worker who was paid the equivalent of $6 a day, and 12 other victims of the fire were brought here. Four have since died.

Tanzil’s sobs filled the general ward as we spoke to the survivors.

The factory fire highlighted Indonesia’s lack of protection for workers and the nation’s substandard work safety laws.

And now it is shining a light on its inadequate health system.

Anggi Aji Pangestu’s wounds leak through the white bandages wrapped around much of his body.

Barely any of the 18-year-old’s young frame was spared.

He too had worked for the fireworks company PT Panca Buana Cahaya Sukses for around $6 a day.

Tanzil Alil Uman was lucky to survive the blaze which killed more than 50 workers.© Provided by ABC News
Tanzil Alil Uman was lucky to survive the blaze which killed more than 50 workers.

“Most people ran inside to the warehouse, I ran outside. If I ran inside there was nowhere else to go,” Anggi said.

The factory had only one entry and exit point at the front, where the fire started. Those workers who ran to the back were trapped.

According to police, many of the bodies were found piled in the rear of building.

Anggi said he knew if he followed, he would die. He moved towards the flames instead.

His brother died in the fire, and Anggi’s burns are so severe it’s hard to see how he will fully recover with the treatment available to him.

The fire, first thought to be started by an electrical fault, was later determined to have been caused by a spark from a welding torch.

Tangerang is a satellite city on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta.

The fireworks factory had been operating for just a few months, in a poor neighbourhood where the labour was cheap and the children were easily exploited.

Many of the victims were women and girls.

Widya, 20, was packing goods when the fire began. She recalled the terror as people began to run screaming for help.

“Someone threw in a ladder from outside, I immediately climbed a wall.”

With no alternative exit, some workers were saved when locals broke down a wall. Others like Tanzil climbed to the roof and kicked their way out.

Whether the owner of the factory will be held truly accountable remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely the tragedy will lead to any tightening of work place safety conditions in Indonesia.

Media coverage of the fire lasted for no more than a few days, but for the survivors the suffering could well last a lifetime.



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