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Dozens feared dead in factory fire

Published 13/05/2015

Firemen prepare to enter a still-smoldering Kentex rubber slipper factory in Valenzuela city, a northern suburb of Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Firemen prepare to enter a still-smoldering Kentex rubber slipper factory in Valenzuela city, a northern suburb of Manila, Philippines. (AP)

A fire has gutted a slipper factory in a suburb of the Philippine capital, possibly killing dozens of workers who ran to the second floor in hopes of escaping only to become trapped.

At least three bodies have been recovered and fire officials said there were no survivors found after the fire was put under control, said Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela city, north of Manila.

Relatives reported 65 people missing, and Mr Gatchalian said only seven people managed to escape the fire. There could be others who are listed as missing but were able to escape, he said.

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", many charred beyond recognition.

Radio reports quoted relatives as saying their kin were able to send text messages saying they were on the second floor, but contact was lost shortly after.

Mr Gatchalian said the fire apparently was ignited by sparks from welding works at the factory's main entrance door, triggering an explosion of the chemicals used to make the slippers.

Workers fled to the second floor where they were trapped, he said. It was unsure if there were any fire escapes there as an investigation was ongoing. He said some of those who escaped exited through back doors.

"By the time they realised that they could pass through the main door, the flames were already engulfing the front area," he said, adding that they thought the second floor was the safer ground.

Mr Tiu, the fire marshal, said the building had exits but apparently the workers were overwhelmed by the thick black smoke from the burning rubber and chemicals, which are highly flammable and caused the blaze to spread quickly.

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