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Fire in Mall Kills 77 Store Workers Taking Inventory

March 29, 1996

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Firefighters carried at least 77 charred bodies out of the smoking ruins of a shopping mall on Friday after battling 12 hours to put out the blaze that consumed the 6 1/2-acre center.

The fire that broke out before dawn Thursday was the fifth and deadliest to strike the Kebon Kembang shopping mall in Bogor town, 40 miles south of the capital Jakarta, since June 1987.

Most of the victims were believed to be women employees of a third-floor department store who had come in early to take inventory. The mall also had 2,900 shops and kiosks.

The extent of the casualties became clear only Friday after firefighters extinguished the blaze 12 hours after it broke out and sifted through the rubble for many more hours before finding bodies.

Seventy-seven plastic bags containing bodies or body parts were taken from the mall to the Indonesian Red Cross Hospital said Wahyu, a chief sergeant at Bogor police station who uses only one name.

Dedy Subandi, a forensic official at the Red Cross hospital, said the exact toll may be difficult to pin down because many bodies were charred beyond recognition. And some of the bags contained more than one body.

``At this time, only 11 of the bodies may be able to be identified,″ he said in a telephone interview from Bogor.

``Many of the other bodies are almost ash,″ he said.

Eleven people who suffered serious burns were being treated in other hospitals.

Wahyu said firemen were still searching for more victims. At least 100 employees were believed to be in the Ramayana store _ part of the country’s largest department store chain _ when the fire broke out.

An electrical short circuit on the third floor is believed to have started the fire.

A Ramayana employee, who was identified only as Tini, said many of her co-workers were unable to escape because their departments had only one door, the Suara Karya reported.

``I was lucky because I was close to the door at that time,″ she was quoted as saying.

Many shop owners rushed to the area on hearing the news of the fire and tried in vain to save their goods while the fire quickly consumed the 6 1/2-acre area.

Damage from the fire was estimated at $21.2 million.

Update hourly