Fire in Thailand toy factory leaves 210 dead: No alarms or fire escapes in buildings that collapsed within 15 minutes as 4,000 workers changed shifts

'HOW COULD you let this happen?' the Thai Prime Minister, Chuan Leekpai, asked a provincial engineer at the scene of the deadliest factory fire in history, where more than 200 bodies had been found by last night. 'You allow them to run a factory like this without inspection.' The engineer did not answer.

Thai Interior Ministry officials said yesterday that 210 bodies had been recovered from the ruins of a toy factory on the outskirts of Bangkok, where workers earned pounds 80 to pounds 105 a month making dolls and soft toys, such as stuffed rabbits, elephants and pigs. Of the dead, 188 were women and 14 were men, while eight bodies were burned beyond recognition.

The fire broke out on Monday afternoon, and quickly engulfed the factory's four four-storey buildings, which collapsed only 15 minutes later. Relatives of the dead said the factory had no fire escapes. Alarms were either not fitted or failed to work. A police inspector told Mr Chuan that initial investigations showed one of the factory exit doors had been locked, and an assistant police chief described the buildings as 'obviously sub- standard'.

The blaze is believed to have started when sparks from a short-circuit ignited synthetic materials used to stuff toys. Because shifts were changing at the time, some 4,000 employees were in the buildings. Emergency workers said many bodies were found piled in narrow corridors leading to the exits or near stairs that collapsed under the weight of fleeing people.

Thailand's Board of Investment identified the operator of the factory as Kader Industrial (Thailand) Ltd, in which a Hong Kong company, KCP Toys, holds a large stake. Gary Conrad, chairman of the British Toy Importers' Association, said Kader mainly made toys to customers' designs for sale under their own brand names and was sure to have had outlets in Britain.

Thailand is one of the 'tiger' economies in the world's fastest-growing region. Thousands of people arrive in Bangkok each week from the impoverished rural north to meet the seemingly insatiable demand for unskilled workers at thousands of labour-intensive factories. The competitiveness of such plants depends on minimal regulation as well as low wages and the country has suffered several disasters as economic expansion outstrips official controls.

In September 1990, a truck carrying two large gas cylinders overturned in one of Bangkok's main intersections. Leaking gas caught fire and incinerated scores of cars waiting at a traffic light, killing 91 people. Five months later, 171 people were killed as they loitered around an overturned truck carrying dynamite. Police believe one of them was smoking. The crash of a Lauda-Air flight shortly after taking off from Bangkok in May 1991 claimed 223 lives, and 119 Buddhist pilgrims were killed last year when a ferry to an offshore shrine collided with an oil tanker.

The previous worst factory blaze was at New York's Triangle Shirtwaist plant on 25 March 1911. Most of the 145 victims were female garment workers locked in a factory loft. The highest fire toll in recent history was 400 in a cinema set alight in Abadan, Iran, in August 1978.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...