By Yumi Lugod/CNN Philippines – Five people are missing and 126 others are injured in an ongoing factory fire at the Cavite Economic Zone (CEZ) in General Trias town, officials said Thursday.
CEZ Administrator Norma Tañag told CNN Philippines 27 persons are confined at Divine Grace Medical Center, 15 at General Trias Hospital.
Authorities said 126 people are injured, including four in critical condition. But the casualty count may go higher.
Housing Technology Industries (HTI), which is into the in manufacturing and assembling of pre-fabricated house parts, employs around 6,000 workers. Authorities have yet to confirm how many were working during the evening shift.
As to the number of casualties, Tañag said there are no final figures yet because the fire has not been put out.
Once the Bureau of Fire Protection issues a fire-out declaration, the site will be turned over to Scene of the Crime Operatives – and only then can they release casualty figures.
Tañag denied firemen saw bodies at the factory premises. She said they haven’t been able to enter the fire zone.
HTI is conducting a headcount of its employees, Tañag said.
A help desk has been setup at the HTI office so family members may inquire about their relatives.
About 2,800 workers were supposed to be on duty at HTI when the fire broke out around 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Cavite Governor Boying Remulla said an overheated installation machine may have sparked the fire on the first floor of the three-storey building.
Remulla said the estimated damage is at ?5 billion. The fire destroyed the showroom, administration office, and insulation rooms of the six-hectare compound.
Factory employees reportedly heard a loud explosion from the molding area on the first floor at around 6 p.m.
One of the employees said she was about to begin her shift when the smoke detector went off, prompting her to run for her life.
Employee Jennifer Piedad was among those to the Divine Grace Hospital.
Another victim, Lumberto Escorido, had burns in nearly half of his body, said brother Adrian.
One woman waiting outside the compound said she and other people are looking for their relatives, fearing they might be trapped inside the building.
“May mga naghahanap sa loob, marami naghahanap… Tinanong ko mga empleyado ng HTI meron daw talagang hindi nakalabas,” she said.
[Translation: There are people looking inside; a lot of people are looking. I asked HTI employees and they said there really were some people who were not able to escape.]
Remulla said HTI and the local government are assisting the victims.
“The company is taking care of everything but we are here to help them…we are prepared to fork out the amounts needed to help the families,” Remulla said.
CEZ: ‘HTI is compliant’
Records show this was the first fire at the Cavite Export Processing Zone that was built in 1980.
Tañag said the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), which manages the country’s export processing zones, conducted its annual inspection in HTI last June 2016.
She said HTI was compliant with PEZA’s safety requirements.
PEZA and the CEZ Investors Association will offer financial assistance to the victims and HTI will shoulder all the victims’ expenses, Tañag said.
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