Valenzuela mayor: No survivors
Three people have been killed and dozens more are feared dead after a fire gutted a footwear factory in Valenzuela City in the northern part of Metro Manila on Wednesday, officials said.
Valenzuela City Mayor Rex Gatchalian said firemen took four hours to get the blaze under control, and entered the burnt-out building of Kentex Manufacturing in Barangay Bagong Ugong to find an undetermined number of bodies.
They were unable to count the dead inside, but found no survivors, Gatchalian added.
“None of those trapped inside survived,” he announced to wailing relatives outside the factory.
Gatchalian said the firemen could not immediately determine how many bodies had been inside but relatives told officials up to 63 of their kin working in the factory at the time were unaccounted for.
Thirty-two people, including the daughter of the factory’s owner, were taken to hospitals for injuries, mostly burns.
Gatchalian urged the relatives to check again whether the missing kin were among those who had managed to escape the blaze.
“I’m not saying all [the missing]are dead. We’re still hoping they were able to jump out,” he noted.
Speaking to radio station dzBB at past 8 p.m. last night, Gatchalian said there were only three confirmed fatalities with the number of missing pegged at 67. He added that police forensic teams were scouring the rubble but no bodies have been taken out so far.
“It’s only after the SOCO (Scene of Crime Operatives) makes a declaration that we could determine the definite number of casualties,” the mayor said.
Earlier in the evening, a GMA News report quoting fire officials said there were 31 casualties as of 6:30 p.m.
When asked about the disparity, Gatchalian said the figures released by unidentified Bureau of Fire Protection officials were not yet verified.
The fire broke out shortly before noon, apparently because of a spark from a welding job at the building’s main entrance, hitting flammable chemicals stored there, Gatchalian told ABS-CBN television in another interview.
He said the bodies of three other victims were recovered earlier.
A factory supervisor, who asked he not to be named and who was among those injured, said employees were not able to flee because the fire started from the ground floor and all exit doors were already in flames after a series of explosions.
“I opened the exit door and jumped out. Two others followed me. I hurt my leg, but the last one to jump was in serious condition,” he added.
Factory worker Nedy Neverio, 35, was among the distraught relatives who gathered outside the two-story 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” packing slippers into bags, Neverio said.
“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 ABS-CBN 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,” Santa Agata said.
“There was a sudden explosion and he got hit on the arm,” said the woman, whose hair was singed according to the network.
Reynaldo Paraido, legal counsel of Kentex, said the company will extend help to the victims and their families.