MANILA, Philippines – A fire razed a rubber slipper factory in a suburb of the Philippine capital Wednesday and dozens of workers reported missing were feared to have perished, the city mayor and fire officials said.
At least three bodies have been recovered and fire officials said there were no survivors found after the fire was put under control, said Mayor Rex Gatchalian of Valenzuela city north of Manila.
Relatives reported 62 people missing, but Gatchalian said only seven people have been reported to have survived. There could be others on their list of missing who were able to escape but no one has come forward to confirm that.
District Fire Marshall Wilberto Rico Neil Kwan Tiu said he was among the first to reach the second floor of the gutted building after the fire and saw "numerous bodies," many charred beyond recognition.
Gatchalian said the fire apparently was ignited from sparks from welding works at the building's main entrance door.
He said workers fled to the second floor where they were trapped.
Addressing a crowd outside the factory compound, Gatchalian appealed to families of the missing to try to reach the workers in homes of other relatives. "There might still be a chance" that they had survived, he said.
"I was talking to the bureau of fire protection and they said no one in the building survived," he said, speaking through a public address system.
His statement was followed by howls of grief and weeping.
"I was able to penetrate the second floor, and as I observed, there were numerous bodies," the fire official said, adding that he couldn't immediately give the number of bodies he saw. "Those I saw were beyond recognition."
The fire was put under control more than five hours after it started.
Gatchalian said one of the bodies recovered was the niece of the factory owner, "who was in a state of shock."
A village council staff member, Kennedy Tan, said the factory had a smaller fire last year but he could not remember if there had been any casualties.