Police will open a criminal investigation into a Philippine factory fire that killed at least 72 people, as a relative of several of the victims said the blaze had trapped workers in the building's second floor, where iron grills on windows prevented their escape. Most of the bodies were retrieved from the gutted two-story Kentex Manufacturing Corp. rubber slipper factory today, a day after the fire raged for over five hours on the outskirts of Manila, the capital. As forensic officers worked to identify the dead and reconcile their names with those listed as missing, questions were being raised if the factory followed fire and building safety standards.
The local mayor says the fire was apparently caused by sparks from welding work at the main entrance door, which caused a chemical explosion that sent workers fleeing to the second floor. Dionesio Candido, whose daughter, granddaughter, sister-in-law, and niece were among the missing, says iron grills reinforced with fencing wire covered windows on the second floor that "could prevent even cats from escaping." He says he was allowed by authorities to enter the gutted building, where he saw charred remains "piled on top of each other." Local media reports quoted relatives as saying their kin sent frantic text messages asking for help from the second floor. Charges will be filed against "all those accountable and those at fault," a police spokesman says.