World / Asia-Pacific

Death toll in Philippine slipper factory fire rises to 72

(Agencies) Updated: 2015-05-14 13:27

Death toll in Philippine slipper factory fire rises to 72

A burnt car is seen inside a gutted footwear factory in Valenzuela, Metro Manila in the Philippines May 14, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]

MANILA, Philippines _ The death toll has risen to 72 in a fire that gutted a rubber slipper factory in the Philippine capital of Manila, a firefighter said on Thursday, as police vowed swift action against those responsible for the mishap.

Wednesday's fire reflects poor occupational health and safety standards that are a challenge for Southeast Asia's fastest growing nation to tackle, analysts say.

As many as 72 bodies have been pulled from the wreckage of the two-storey factory, fire official Sergio Soriano Jr. said on radio, shortly after Rexlon Gatchalian, mayor of Valenzuela city in Manila, announced a toll of 58, with 13 missing.

Estimates by local government and fire officials have been in conflict since Wednesday, complicated by the difficulties of retrieving bodies from the wreckage.

Police said the fire started when sparks from a welding machine set ablaze flammable chemicals near the main entrance of the factory, triggering a huge explosion, followed by billows of black smoke and flames.

"Definitely there will be charges here, because people died," said Leonardo Espina, acting director of the Philippine National Police.

"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."

Arson investigators have gone to the site to help city police in the probe, he added.

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