A ceiling collapsed at a shoe factory in Cambodia on Thursday killing at least two workers, raising concerns over industrial safety, as the incident came weeks after a garment factory disaster in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,100 laborers.
The concrete roof at the factory in Kampong Speu province, west of Phnom Penh, crashed on laborers, as they were working. At least seven people were injured, the Associated Press reported.
Khem Pannara, district police chief for the area told the AFP news agency that the concrete ceiling, which appeared to be of “poor construction,” had been used to store equipment and materials and could not hold the weight.
“We have almost removed all the debris and I think there are probably no more people under the rubble,” he said.
The shoe factory is owned by a Taiwanese company Wing Star Shoes, which makes trainers for Japanese sports brand Asics.
An Asics spokeswoman in Tokyo confirmed to the AP that the factory was in contract to make Asics running shoes. She said Asics was trying to determine what happened.
“We understand that some people have died, so first we offer our condolences,” Asics spokeswoman Masayo Hasegawa said. She remarked that she did not have information on the last time the building structure had been inspected, but added: “We want the highest priority to be placed on saving lives.”
Cambodia is extremely dependent on the garment industry, which in 2007 generated 90 percent of the country’s export earnings and 27 percent of its industrial employment.
The industry draws large numbers of workers, mostly rural women, into the labor market as migrants, whose remittances to their home areas has facilitated poverty alleviation to a certain extent.
Garment factories in Cambodia increased in number from a mere 20 in 1995 to a peak of over 300 in 2006, and employs more than half a million people.
Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said the incident would further stoke fears among the country's workers about industrial safety.
“Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international safety standard because the quality of the buildings are not ensured and people have been working with a high risk of danger,” he told AFP.
“We are calling for the government and authorities to re-examine the quality of the factory buildings in order to avoid this kind of incident in the future. It happened in Bangladesh recently and now it has happened in Cambodia. We are very worried about the safety of the workers.”
On April 24, the Rana Plaza factory, manufacturing garments in Savar, a commercial suburb in Bangladesh collapsed killing as many as 1,127 people — the word’s most deadly industrial accident since 1984 Bhopal disaster in India.