A fire in a footwear manufacturing factory in Manila claimed the lives of over seventy workers earlier this month. The fire is believed to have been started by welding work at the factory entrance, which sparked an explosive reaction in the chemicals used to make the flip-flops in which the building specialised.
Most of the victims are believed to have succumbed to the thick smoke from burning rubber and chemicals, which produced flames so intense that the jewelry the victims wore had melted or fallen off. They were recovered mostly from the second floor, where wire gratings over the windows may have impeded escape. Identification of those who died is being hampered by the severity of their burns.
Acting national police chief Leonardo Espina told reporters,
"Definitely there will be charges here, because people died. 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."Meanwhile, a knock-on effect to the earthquakes in Nepal is causing concern in the fashion factories of Bangladesh. At least two buildings have been deemed to have suffered substantial damage to their foundations as a result of the aftershocks, which were felt throughout the sub-continent. It remains unclear as to whether these companies are still trading, or how many others like it continue to allow workers through their doors while their buildings are in a dangerously compromised condition.
Yet again, we find ourselves in a position where people's lives are being endangered or lost in unsafe factories. Meanwhile, the huge multi-national companies who provide the financial reason for those factories being there do little or nothing to help. It's becoming clear that it took US trade sanctions against Bangladesh to kickstart the BFSA. If not for that, little would have changed. Let's be clear. When we talk about the fashion business, the emphasis is strongly on the second word.
The awful truth is that when there's money to be made, life can be very cheap indeed.