Part of Cambodian shoe factory collapses, killing 2 workers

Heavy iron equipment on upper floor may have caused the collapse.

May 16, 2013   by Associated Press

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The ceiling of a Cambodian factory that makes Asics sneakers collapsed on workers early in the morning May 16, killing two people and injuring seven.

About 50 workers were inside the factory south of Phnom Penh, the capital, when the ceiling caved in, said police officer Khem Pannara. He said heavy iron equipment stored on the floor above appeared to have caused the collapse.

Two bodies were pulled from the wreckage and seven people were injured, he said. Rescuers combed through rubble for several hours and after clearing the site said that nobody else was trapped inside.

An initial investigation showed the ceiling that collapsed was poorly built and lacked the proper building materials to support heavy weight, said Ou Sam Oun, governor of Kampong Speu province, where the factory was located.

Chea Muny, chief of a trade union for factory workers, identified the factory as a Taiwanese-owned operation called Wing Star that produces sneakers for Asics, a Japanese sportswear label. He said shoes made at the factory were imported to the US and Europe.

An Asics spokeswoman in Tokyo confirmed the factory was in contract to make Asics running shoes. She said Asics was trying to determine what happened.

The factory complex, which opened about a year ago, consists of several buildings and employs about 7,000 people, said Pannara, the police officer. The structure where the collapse occurred was mainly used as a storage warehouse for shoe-production equipment but had a small work area for about 24 people, Chea Muny said.

The garment industry is Cambodia’s biggest export earner, employing about 500,000 people in more than 500 garment and shoe factories. In 2012, the southeast Asian country shipped more than $4 billion worth of products to the US and Europe.

The accident comes about three weeks after a building collapse in Bangladesh killed 1,127 people in the global garment industry’s deadliest disaster.

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