Cambodia sneaker workshop ceiling collapse kills 2 | News | DW | 16.05.2013
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Cambodia sneaker workshop ceiling collapse kills 2

The ceiling of a garment factory workshop in Cambodia collapsed killing two and injuring 10. The accident highlights the ongoing dangers for workers in the global garment industry.

About 50 workers were inside the workroom when the ceiling caved in early Thursday, according to police. The factory, south of Phnom Penh, the capital, had heavy iron equipment stored in a mezzanine above the workspace, which appears to have caused the collapse. Two bodies were pulled from the wreckage and 10 people were injured.

Rescuers picked through rubble for several hours and cleared the site. They said no one else was trapped inside.

Speaking from a clinic where she was being treated for her injuries, 25-year-old worker Kong Thary said, "We were working normally and suddenly several pieces of brick and iron started falling on us."

Governor Ou Sam Oun of Kampong Speu province, where the factory is located, said initial investigations indicated that the ceiling was poorly built and lacked the proper materials to support heavy weight.

Trade unionist Chea Muny said the factory was a Taiwanese-owned operation called Wing Star that produced sneakers for Japanese sportswear label Asics. He said shoes made at the factory were exported to the United States and Europe. Chea Muny added that the site of the accident was mainly used as storage for equipment but had a small area for workers.

Police officer Khem Pannara said the complex had been opened about a year ago and the total site employed about 7,000 people in several buildings.

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

"We understand that some people have died, so first we offer our condolences," Masayo Hasegawa said from Tokyo. "We want the highest priority to be placed on saving lives."

The accident comes just three weeks after the building housing five garment factories in Bangladesh collapsed killing 1,127 people.

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 (3.1 billion euros) worth of products to the United States and Europe.

jm/mkg (AP, AFP)