News from LaoDongViet.org, website of Free Viet Labor Federation

(CPVW is a member of this federation, whose short name is Viet Labor)
Shoe Factory Fires in Hai Phong: 18 deaths, including a 16-year-old girl

Nu cong nhan Hai Phong bi chay phongFree Viet Labor Federation would like to report that there was a shoe factory fires at Hai Phong on 29th July 2011, where there are up to 50 workers, including some 10 children who are less than 18 years of age. The numbers of death at time of report are 18 people. Among the death is a 16-year-old girl worker, Vu Thi Phuong Linh. With the injured, many are severe and it is uncertain whether or not some will survive the injuries.

There has been no announcement of any supports or benefits for our workers from the state union’s officials due to the fire since it happen on 29th July at 16:00. Some people attributed the lacks of respond was due to the factory fire which happens on the Friday, when most union officials are busy partying and drinking so they don’t have time to respond. However, if it were a strike, no matter where or when, there would be an instant respond from the official to suppress the strike.

Since it was the State’s Union, claiming to represent all workers across the country, it need to focus more on safety for it’s workers. The factory is 4m in width and 25 m long with only one door for entrance and exit, which was obstructed by many motorcycles parked at the front, so when there is a fire, the workers don’t have a clear exit to escape. There are no sign from the State’s Union in Hai Phong or anywhere else announcing that they will send officials to other factories to monitor the fire evacuation plan and check the fire prevention measures. At this factory and many others around Hai Phong, in area like district Vinh Bao and An Duong, there were no fire prevention equipments, however, the People Committee official are willing to turn a blind eye to this if there is a small gift offered as a bribe.

On the same day, 29th July, Hai Phong’s police official arrested 6 people, the husband and wife factory owner, the husband and wife who hired the factory, and two welders. And that night they was quick to prosecute the people involed, to appease public opinion.

As workers escaped death recounts, the fires caused by careless welders, welding lightning rod on the ceiling causing sparks to ignite roofing insulation and heat resistant fabric lining the ceiling. The insulations fell to the factory floor in a fireball, engulfing the foam liners and blocking the only entrance near the front door.

Some workers were quick to react and ran to escaped, many suffered severe burns. There are a total of about 50 people in the factory at that time, with over 20 trapped in the room. They tried to escape by climbing up the roof and removing the roof panels but failed and fell on each other, causing more panic to the already panicking workers. In the meantime, on the outside the neighbors tried to make a hole in the walls, eventually managing to punch a hole big enough to fit one person, but only a few workers managed to escape through it.

Many people outside rushed in to rescue their relatives, some were successful and escaped, but at least one rescuer did not made it and died with the trapped workers.

Worker Linh, at just 16 years of age, die while trying to earn a living. Her relatives will receive a “huge” paid out of 10 million đồng from the local official to compensate. It’s her life in exchange for 10 millions đồng.

(PHOTO: a young injure female worker)

Free Viet Labor Federation, or Viet Labor, is an alliance of labor-right groups inside and outside Vietnam, working together to support the workers of Vietnam, who has suffered so much difficulties, including: a low wages which was the result of a low minimum state’s imposed wage, the use of forced labor, unsafe and unhygienic working conditions.

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