A factory fire yesterday near Manila took the lives of at least 72 people, according to local officials.
Located in the suburb of Valenzuela City, the Kentex Manufacturing factory was used for the production of “Havana” brand flip-flops—a local knock-off of the Brazilian brand Havaianas, according to Agence France Presse.
It appears that welding work near the factory’s main entrance ignited chemicals used in the production process, according to authorities. Workers inside were trapped, including some by bars on the windows of the facility’s second floor. The bars “could prevent even cats from escaping,” Dionesio Candido, who has relatives among the missing, told the International Business Times. Iron bars are common features on windows of homes, offices, and factories in the country, intended to prevent theft.
It appears the owners of the factory also suffered directly from the tragedy. Tristan Ong, one of the victims, was a son of the factory owners and a part-owner himself. Another part-owner, Heidi Pang, was also killed.
Valenzuela Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian said the owners of the factory had promised to help the families of victims. “Mayor, we will help our employees with regard to identification, burial, and medical expenses. We will not turn our backs from our obligation,” Gatchalian quoted the family as saying, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The incident caused widespread outrage, with a focus on the relatively low level of safety standards in the Philippines. “I had never been involved in a fire drill ever,” survivor Janet Victoriano, who had worked at the factory for five years, told the AFP.