Death Toll at 72 and Counting in Slipper-Factory Fire in the Philippines

An explosion and fire at a rubber-slipper factory in the Philippines yesterday has left at least 72 people dead and dozens of others missing, according to  Reuters.

Approximately 200 to 300 people worked at Kentex Manufacturing Inc., but estimates of the number of persons missing or deceased have been in conflict since Wednesday due to the difficulties of retrieving bodies from the site.

Police said the blaze started when sparks from a welding machine made contact with flammable chemicals close to the main entrance of the factory, resulting in a huge explosion, according to reports.

“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.”

Worker safety has been an ongoing concern for American companies sourcing their manufacturing abroad. April 24 marked the two-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster in Dhaka, Bangladesh, when a building that housed several garment-manufacturing factories collapsed, killing more than 1,129 workers and injuring thousands of others.

“In the two years since the tragedy, the industry committed itself to improving worker safety in Bangladesh. The work includes individual company initiatives as well as efforts through organizations such as Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety,” said the American Apparel & Footwear Association in a post on its website last month. “These combined activities have led to the inspection and remediation of thousands of factories, and the empowerment, through safety training and technology, of hundreds of thousands of workers.”

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