At least 41 killed, more than 80 injured in fire at overcrowded prison in Indonesia

TANGERANG, Indonesia, Sept 8 (Reuters) - A fire killed 41 inmates in an overcrowded prison block in Indonesia's Banten province on Wednesday, a government minister said, injuring scores more in a blaze that police said may have been caused by an electrical fault.

 

The fire, the country's most deadly since 47 perished in a firework factory disaster in 2017, broke out at 1.45 a.m. local time in a Tangerang Prison block, said Indonesian law and human rights minister Yasonna Laoly, after visiting the scene.

 

"We're working together with relevant authorities to look into the causes of the fire and of course formulating prevention strategies so that severe catastrophes like this won't happen again," the minister said in a statement.

 

The minister said two of the dead were foreign nationals, one each from South Africa and Portugal, and confirmed the prison was operating at overcapacity when the fire broke out.

Cells were locked at the time, the minister said, but with the fire raging uncontrollably, "some rooms couldn't be opened."

 

Earlier on Wednesday, Rika Aprianti, a spokeswoman for the ministry's prison department, said 122 were being detained on drug-related offences in a block built to hold 38.

 

Rika said all 41 fatalities were inmates, adding authorities were still evacuating the facility as of 9.00 a.m. local time.

 

Prisons in Indonesia are notoriously overcrowded, with experts saying the phenomenon is partly due to the emphasis on incarceration rather than rehabilitation of those convicted of drug-related offences under the country's strict narcotics laws.

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