Friday, July 31, 2015

26 workers dead, 20+ others injured in factory fire

Mada Masr

Factory that went up in flames was unlicensed due to poor safety measures

Thursday - July 30, 2015

Recent investigations revealed that the Qalyubiya Civil Protection Department had refused to grant a license to an Obour City furniture factory that went up in flames on Tuesday, due to a lack of appropriate safety measures.

A fire broke out on Tuesday at the three-storey factory, ElHelow Style Office Furniture, which had reportedly been unlicensed since 2011. The blaze killed 26 people and injured more than 20 others.

Privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper reported that the factory of around 150 workers didn’t have any safety exits, which further delayed the rescue process. Most of the factories in this area lack the necessary industrial safety requirements, according to Al-Shorouk.

Citing a security source, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the fire erupted due the explosion of gas cylinders that were being transported across floors by workers.

The collapse of the staircase inside the factory was one of the main reasons behind the high death toll, the privately owned Al-Wafd newspaper reported, adding that most fatalities happened among workers on the second and third floors.

Qalyubiya Governor Mohamed Abdel Zaher said the families of the deceased would receive compensation from the government, in addition to the promised compensation from the factory owner and the Urban Communities Authority.

A committee of technical experts is due to visit neighboring buildings and factories to check for further damages from the fire.

Health Ministry official Mohamed Lasheen stated on Thursday that 20 of the injured have now been discharged from hospital, having mostly suffered from superficial burns or suffocation.

Industrial safety expert Fatma Ramadan told Mada Masr that safety requirements are tailored toward specific facilities and their work, and usually include precautions for fires as well as chemical, electricity and radiation hazards.

Each industrial facility should abide by the safety measures set by the government departments for civil protection, mechanical engineering and occupational health and safety.

Every industrial facility should have at least two safety exits that lead to the outside the premises, Ramadan explained, as “if the first exit is blocked because of a fire or the destruction of parts of the building, the second is then hopefully available.”

The prosecutor general ordered that the owner and the manager of the factory be detained on Wednesday for four days, pending investigations, according to Reuters-affiliated Aswat Masreya.

*Photo of Obour factory fire courtesy of EPA

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