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Philippine factory fire kills 72

15 May 2015

Rexlon Gatchalian, the mayor of Manila suburb Valenzuela, said the death toll in a slipper factory fire on May 13 has reached 72, with at least 30 injured. He said the fire was apparently ignited by sparks from welding work being done at the factory's main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the rubber and chemicals used to make the slippers.

Stock image
Stock image

Workers fled to the second floor where they were trapped, he said. They were then overwhelmed by the thick black smoke from the burning materials, which were highly flammable and caused the blaze to spread quickly.

Local sources said iron grills reinforced with wire covered windows on the second floor prevented anyone from escaping. District Fire Marshal Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu said he was among the first to reach the second floor of the gutted building after the fire and saw "numerous bodies" piled near the windows. Local politicians said that the building lacked fire sprinklers.

Workers at a nearby factory told ABS-CBN television that people watched helplessly as many of the victims cried for help from the windows as flames and black smoke engulfed the building.

At least 104 workers at the Kentex Manufacturing Corp factory were recruited by an illegal sub-contractor, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said. She said an inquiry would be held into the incident and owners would be summoned to answer any ensuing charges.

A union official alleged that workers at the factory had reported that in addition to barriers on windows, which are used to prevent theft but are a violation of occupational health and safety regulations, the company also did not conduct fire drills.

This was one of the worst fires in the country after the 1996 disco blaze that killed 162 people. Another fire at a budget hotel in 2001 killed 75.

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