At least 78 people have died and over a dozen are missing after a blaze broke out in a shoe factory in the Philippines. The fire occurred yesterday on the ground floor of the factory in Valenzuela City, a suburb north of Manila, forcing workers to flee upstairs where they were trapped by metal bars across the windows. Police believe the fire, which raged for five hours overnight, began when sparks from a welder’s torch, being used to repair the factory doors, caused chemicals in the factory to explode. The building belongs to Kentex Manufacturing Corp, which manufactures rubber flip-flops and other shoes, which are made using highly flammable chemicals, causing the fire to spread quickly. Questions are being raised if the factory followed fire and building safety standards.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said records showed Kentex had 54 workers, 33 of them members of the company’s workers union. She said that the Labor Department found that Kentex was found compliant with general labor standards as well as occupational safety and health standards. She added that a technical inspection of the company in January found the boilers used for heating were found to be “in satisfactory condition.”