MANILA – As of Thursday afternoon, 72 workers were confirmed killed from a fire in the footwear factory of Kentex Manufacturing, Inc. in Valenzuela City.
The official count was taken from the recovered dead bodies of factory workers. Retrieval operations by the local government will still be continued on the following days.
There may still be more bodies found as the foreman and workers’ log book was also burnt, making it difficult to determine the exact number of workers who were in the factory by the time of the fire.
For the meantime, forensic workers started identifying the burnt bodies, reconciling their names and reporting to families and relatives. They encountered difficulty, however, as the bodies could no longer show fingerprints. DNA, dental records and personal items were then used to recognize them.
Minutes after the fire started, the factory workers were still able to send text messages to families and relatives, asking for help. Connection was lost soon afterwards.
Arson investigators were puzzled as to why the workers were trapped and unable to exit the factory when there was a wide stairway leading to the outside. There were also other exits in the building.
District Fire Marshal Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu presumed that the workers were unable to escape the fire as they were overwhelmed by the thick black smoke from the burning rubber and other highly flammable materials used to make slippers.
After the fire was finally extinguished, the public questioned if fire and safety standards were followed and if the number of people inside the building was under the limit.
Dionesio Candido, who lost several family members in the fire, mentioned that the factory’s windows had iron grill bars and fencing wires, making it difficult for ‘even cats’ to get in and out. He was also able to enter the building and saw the remains ‘piled on top of each other.’
Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina promised to file charges against those who were ‘accountable and at fault.’
State of Calamity will be declared in Valenzuala City.