Hundreds work themselves to death while counting ballots in Indonesia

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Image: Workers lay during a break as they prepare election materials in a w
Workers take a break as they prepare election materials in a warehouse in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 15. -
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Willy Kurniawan
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JAKARTA, Indonesia — More than 270 election staff died in the 10 days after Indonesia held the world's biggest single-day vote, an official said Sunday.

Fatigue-related illnesses caused by long hours of work counting millions of ballot papers by hand were blamed for most of the deaths.

The April 17 elections were the first time the country of 260 million people combined the presidential vote with national and regional parliamentary ones, with an aim to cut costs.

Voting was largely peaceful and was estimated to have drawn 80 percent of the total 193 million voters, who each had to punch up to five ballot papers in more than 800,000 polling stations.

But conducting the eight-hour vote in a country that stretches more than 3,000 miles from its western to eastern tips proven to be both a Herculean logistical feat and deadly for officials, who had to count ballot papers by hand.

Indonesian workers transport ballot boxes to Bonto Matinggi village on April 16.
Indonesian workers transport ballot boxes to Bonto Matinggi village on April 16.Daeng Mansur

As of Saturday night, 272 election officials had died, mostly from overwork-related illnesses, while 1,878 others had fallen ill, said Arief Priyo Susanto, a spokesman for the General Elections Commission.

The Health Ministry issued a circular letter on April 23 urging health facilities to give utmost care for sick election staff, while the Finance Ministry is working on compensation for families of the deceased, Susanto added.

The winners of the presidential and parliamentary elections are due to be announced on May 22.