The Herald Bulletin

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May 16, 2013

Cambodian shoe factory collapse kills 2, injures 7

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia —  The ceiling of a Cambodian factory that makes Asics sneakers collapsed on workers early Thursday, killing two people and injuring seven, in the latest accident spotlighting the often lethal safety conditions faced by those toiling in the global garment industry.

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

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

At a clinic where she was being treated for her injuries, worker Kong Thary cried on the telephone as she recounted the collapse.

“We were working normally and suddenly several pieces of brick and iron started falling on us,” the 25-year-old said.

The accident comes just a little more than three weeks after a building housing five garment factories in Bangladesh crashed down on thousands of workers, killing 1,127 people. That disaster is the deadliest in the history of the global garment business and has led to calls for Western retailers to do more to ensure the safety of those who make their products.

“This shows that the problem is not only isolated to Bangladesh, and that companies (elsewhere) are trying to drive prices down by taking shortcuts on workers’ safety,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch.

An initial investigation showed the ceiling that collapsed Thursday 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 is 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 exported to the United States and Europe.

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