At least 28 dead in Philippines after fire tears through footwear factory in Manila

footwear-factory-fire-Manila

At least 28 people have died after a fire gutted a footwear factory in the Philippine capital Manila, officials say.

Senior superintendent Sergio Soriano confirmed the deaths after inspecting the building in the capital’s Valenzuela industrial district.

“They were lying side by side, but all I could see were their bones,” he said.

Officials earlier confirmed three people had been killed in the blaze, which broke out at the rubber slipper factory shortly before noon local time.

About 200 to 300 people worked in the factory, according to Veato Ang, the factory owner.

“It just broke out and people started running,” he said of the fire.

Thirty-nine workers were accounted for, but 65 were reported missing and feared dead.

“I have been informed that 65 people could not be located and might be inside that building,” mayor Rex Gatchalian told journalists.

“I was told no one survived inside, but I am still hoping some of those trapped were able to escape the building safely.”

Survivor recounts ‘sudden explosion’

Firemen took four hours to get the blaze under control, and entered the burnt-out building to find an undetermined number of bodies, Mr Gatchalian said.

He added that firemen could not immediately determine how many bodies had been inside.

Mr Gatchalian urged the relatives to check again whether the missing kin were among those who had managed to escape the blaze.

Philippine firemen carry bags containing the bodies of victims of the factory fire
Philippine firemen carry bags containing the bodies of victims after a fire in a footwear factory. (AFP: Ted Aljibe)

“I’m not saying all (the missing) are dead. We’re still hoping they were able to jump out,” he added.

Ariel Barayuga, head of bureau of fire protection, said investigators were trying to determine the cause of fire.

Flammable materials and chemicals were believed to have helped spread the flames.

Factory worker Nedy Neverio, 35, was among the distraught relatives who gathered outside the two-storey factory awaiting word on her elder sister Nora Verenzuela, 42, and two nephews, who are among the missing.

“Someone told us no-one escaped from the area where she was assigned,” said Ms Neverio.

“My sister’s workplace was near the chemicals. She was not able to get out because the flames had spread,” she added.

Injured survivor Emma Santa Agata told local media many of her fellow workers were trapped at their work stations on the second floor of the building.

“My boss and I were running out when we were blocked by fire and smoke,” she said.

“There was a sudden explosion and he got hit on the arm.”

About 150 people died in the worst fire in Manila which broke out at a popular disco in 1996.

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