Update as of 2:46 a.m. EDT: The death toll in a Philippine footwear factory fire north of the capital Manila rose to 72, city officials said Thursday. Police have promised to act against those responsible for the incident.
"Definitely there will be charges here, because people died," Leonardo Espina, acting director of the Philippine National Police, told Reuters. "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."
The death toll in a Philippine footwear factory fire north of the capital Manila rose to at least 58 on Thursday amid reports that another 13 people were still missing and feared dead, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities said they expected the toll to further rise as police recovered more bodies from the remains of the Kentex Manufacturing Corp. factory in the city of Valenzuela, which was destroyed by a blaze on Wednesday.
Mayor Rex Gatchalian reportedly said the search for bodies was briefly suspended on Wednesday over worries about the building’s instability, but was restarted on Thursday.
He said that relatives of the victims had been asked to provide lists of clothing, dental records and body features that could be used to help identify the victims. A fire official who contained the blaze yesterday reportedly said he saw many bodies burned beyond recognition in the factory.
Local media reports said that the trapped workers sent text messages to their relatives telling them they were on the second floor, but contact was lost shortly after that.
Workers reportedly had trouble escaping the blaze due to the thick smoke from burning rubber and chemicals. The blaze reportedly started when a spark from a welding work near the building’s main entrance caused a fire.