Last Wednesday, May 13, the metropolis was stunned by the news of a giant fire that consumed a two-storey building in Valenzuela, causing the deaths of 72 people (at this time of writing) and may rise in the coming days as authorities are still trying to retrieve any remaining bodies.
The structure in question is a factory building that belongs to Kentex Manufacturing Inc., a slippers manufacturer based in the city’s Barangay Ugong and most of the dead were workers in the said factory. The circumstances have not been solidly established yet; nevertheless, it serves as a grim reminder yet again of the importance of fire safety and preparedness of the structures located in the metropolis.
So far, the stories point the cause of this huge fire to a welding activity which was being done near the area where some chemicals are stored. If that is so, then the outcome should be of no surprise unfortunately. Some of the workers tried to put out the fire with water but it did not work, which should be of no surprise if the chemical origin of the fire is true. Which also leads us to one of the questions that should be looked into further: where are the fire extinguishers? Did the factory have any or were they working?
As the fire grew, many of the workers fled to the second floor to avoid the fire but they had nowhere to go. Unfortunately, the windows had metal bars and screens so they could not get out through the windows. To make matters worse, they did not notice any fire exits in the building, contributing to a greater loss of lives.
Unfortunately, it is a story we are somehow familiar with like what happened in Ozone Disco more than 2o years ago. While there are some progress being made in ensuring fire safety, there are still others that do not do so, the Kentex factory possibly being one of them. Why and how some establishments manage to pass safety standards is baffling to say the least. But I suppose I don’t have to go on further with what else may be at hand. Either way, the authorities must step up in enforcing these standards strictly.
At the same time, there should be a conscious effort among architects, engineers, and others in building construction to make these buildings safe. It is sad to think that a structure that shelters people ends up killing them because there were no proper signages or perhaps other ways to help them escape the fire. Such features should be a given already but somehow this was lost in the process.
For the meantime, our condolences to the families of those who perished in this tragedy. We also hope the authorities get into the bottom of this and make the ones who did not do their job in ensuring the workers’ safety be held accountable.
acknowledgements as well to GMA News Online