Police blow up wall to help victims flee fire

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The Independent Online

Police used explosives blew a hole in a nightclub wall to allow desperate patrons to escape a raging fire that killed up to 52 people in Indonesia, officials said yesterday.

Police used explosives blew a hole in a nightclub wall to allow desperate patrons to escape a raging fire that killed up to 52 people in Indonesia, officials said yesterday.

Some people leapt to their deaths from the top of the four-storey karaoke bar in the South Sumatran provincial capital of Palembang as flames engulfed the roof, a police captain, Arum Prioyono, said.

The blaze started on Sunday and is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault. Firefighters extinguished the fire yesterday morning. Rescuers searching through rubble had retrieved 52 victims, a fire brigade official said.

Police said they could confirm only 42 deaths. But a Palembang police officer said he believed more bodies remained in the gutted building.

Palembang is an industrial city about (250 miles north-west of Jakarta. In June 1998, a fire that swept through a crowded shopping centre there killed 19 people.

The karaoke bar, in a busy shopping area, did not have proper fire exits and the only lift was broken, Capt Prioyono said. Several victims died after jumping from the upper floors to escape the flames.

Two survivors were being treated at Palembang hospital, while 18 others with lighter injuries had been released.

Rescuers had to blast through the club's wall to allow dozens of people trapped inside to escape from the building. Owners of karaoke bars, cinemas, internet cafés and similar businesses in Indonesia often ignore fire safety rules.

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