At Least 72 Dead in Manila Footwear Factory Fire
The official death toll has risen to 72 after a fire destroyed a slipper and shoe factory in a suburb of Manila, Philippines. According to Reuters, estimates regarding the exact number of victims have conflicted, as officials have had trouble recovering bodies from the scene. The factory was owned by Kentax Manufacturing Corp.
Police stated that the fire started from sparks from a welding machine near flammable chemicals near the factory's main entrance, triggering an explosion.
Arson investigators are assisting police in the investigation. "Definitely there will be charges here, because people died," Leonardo Espina, acting director of the Philippine National Police told Reuters. "Regardless of whether it was an accident or arson, people died. We are just determining what exactly happened so that we can clearly define what charges to file."
Steve Chuya, a worker in the factory, told CNN that workers tried to extinguish the fire with water and a fire extinguisher, but were unsuccessful. Firefighters also had difficulty with the black smoke from the material in the factory.
According to CNN, many of the bodies were recovered from the building's second floor, leading officials to believe that workers were trapped there. Al Jazeera reported that it is unclear whether or not the factory had an emergency fire exit.
Also, the logbook of workers on duty was reportedly lost in the fire, which makes it harder to identify exactly who was inside the building at the time of the accident. Veato Ang, the factory owner, told Al Jazeera that about 200 to 300 people worked in the factory.
After raging for five hours, the fire was finally put out Wednesday morning, and police continue to search for clues at the scene. Jose Soriano Jr., regional director of the Bureau of Fire Protection, told Al Jazeera that as many as 63 people were unaccounted for, and that the death toll is expected to rise as relief efforts continue.