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Two dead in Cambodia shoe factory collapse

At least six people also injured after ceiling collapses, highlighting concerns about industrial safety in the country.

Last Modified: 16 May 2013 05:49
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A factory worker said more than 100 people work every day under the area that collapsed [AFP]

A ceiling has collapsed at a shoe factory in southern Cambodia, killing at least two workers and injuring at least six people, highlighting concerns about industrial safety in the country.

Khem Pannara, district police chief for the area in the province of Kampong Speu, said the concrete ceiling, which appeared to be of "poor construction", had been used to store equipment and materials and could not hold the weight.

"We have almost removed all the debris and I think there are probably no more people under the rubble," he said on Thursday, adding that the area under the collapsed ceiling was a walkway.

One worker at the Cambodian factory said police and some staff had worked together to clear the debris.

"Every day more than 100 people work under that area, but I don't know how many were working this morning," said Sokny, 29.

"I was so shocked. I am crying. I saw blood in the debris," she told AFP news agency.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, said the incident would further stoke fears among the country's workers about industrial safety.

"Garment factories in Cambodia do not meet international safety standard because the quality of the buildings are not ensured and people have been working with a high risk of danger," he said.

Safety concerns

Last month, a nine-storey factory complex outside Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, collapsed, killing 1,127 people, in one of the world's worst industrial disasters.

The collapse prompted pressure on Western retailers that rely on cheap labour in the region, where safety standards are often substandard.

The garment industry is Cambodia's biggest export earner, with more than $4bn worth of products shipped to the US and Europe in 2012.

About 500,000 people work in more than 500 garment and shoe factories throughout the country.

A series of strikes by workers has pointed to festering discontent over low wages and tough conditions.

In February 2012, three women, employees of Puma supplier Kaoway Sports, were wounded when a gunman opened fire on protesters demanding better working conditions at factories.

The shooting prompted Puma, Gap and H&M to express their "deep concern" and urge a thorough investigation.

The monthly minimum wage for the hundreds of thousands of workers who make clothes this month rose from $61 to $75, plus $5 for healthcare, after months of protest.

Following the Bangladesh disaster, top retailers this month pledged to make that country's factories safer.

Top global brands including Benetton, Carrefour and Marks & Spencer joined Inditex and H&M on Tuesday in signing on for the deal to improve fire and building safety to avert future disasters.

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Source:
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