Philippine factory fire: Death toll rises to 72

Philippine factory fire: Death toll rises to 72

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Philippine factory fire: Death toll rises to 72.

The death toll in a fire that destroyed a shoe factory in the Philippine capital has risen to 72, officials say.

Police have vowed to take swift action against those responsible, amid workers’ claims of poor health and safety standards.

“Definitely there will be charges here, because people died,” acting national police chief Leonardo Espina said.

Police say the fire started when sparks from welding work ignited flammable chemicals near the building’s entrance.

The Philippines has lax safety standards and large fires are relatively common, particularly in slum areas.

Most of the victims are thought to have suffocated in thick black smoke from burning rubber and chemicals.

Members of the Scene of the Crimes Operatives bring in bags of charred bodies of the workers at municipal hall in Valenzuela city, north of Manila on 14 May 2015.
Retrieving bodies from the dangerous wreckage of the factory is taking time
A worker who survived the fire look inside a gutted footwear factory in Valenzuela, Metro Manila in the Philippines on 14 May 2015. The
Survivors say they were unaware of any fire safety regulations
Filipino relatives of missing factory workers wait for updates following a fire at a footwear factory in Valenzuela city, east of Manila, Philippines, 14 May 2015.
Friends and relatives face an agonising wait identifying the bodies

“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,” Mr Espina told reporters on Thursday.

The owner of the factory, which is operated by Kentex Manufacturing and produces rubber flip flops and sandals, said about 200 to 300 people were inside the building at the time of the fire.

The mayor of the Valenzuela district, Rexlon Gatchalian, told the AFP news agency he did not expect the death toll to rise much further, as the number of bodies retrieved matched the number of people missing.

Survivors and relatives of the victims told the news agency that factory employees worked for below minimum wage, surrounded by chemicals, and unaware of fire safety standards.

“We were running not knowing exactly where to go,” one of the survivors, Lisandro Mendoza, said.

The factory is in the rundown district of Valenzuela in the north of the capital.

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