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Shoe Factory Collapse Kills Two

Cambodian rescuers work at the site of a factory collapse in Kai Ruong village, south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, May 16, 2013. The ceiling of the factory that makes Asics sneakers collapsed on workers early Thursday, killing two people and injuring seven, in the latest accident to spotlight lax safety conditions in the global garment industry. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
KAMPONG SPEU - At least two workers died and 11 others were injured Thursday morning when a section of a shoe factory collapsed where they were working in Kampong Speu province, authorities said.

Officials have so far blamed the collapse on shoddy construction of a storage mezzanine at the Wing Star Shoes factory, 50 kilometers south of Phnom Penh.

The mezzanine was overloaded with goods and manufacturing equipment, Kampong Speu Governor Ou Sam Ourn said. The building had not been constructed with permission from authorities, he said.

“After my inspection, [I found] there were no minimum standards at all,” he said. “When they stored too many goods, it just collapsed.”

Minister of Social Affairs Ith Samheng said an investigation will be conducted into the collapse to determine who is responsible.

Wing Star Shoes is a Taiwanese company employing some 7,000 workers. At the time of the collapse, around 7 am on Thursday, less than 100 employees had been working under the mezzanine, Ith Samheng said. Workers were crushed under equipment stored above them, he said.

Some 30 ambulances rushed to the scene, along with security forces to aid victims. Two of eleven injured workers were sent home by the end of the day. Two more remained at a nearby clinic, and seven were taken to Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh. Officials said the death toll could rise above two.

The collapse of the factory, which produced shoes destined for the US and European markets, according to the Associated Press, comes just three weeks after a fire in a Bangladesh factory building killed 1,127 people.

Workers’ rights advocates in Cambodia say the Wing Star collapse is indicative of poor government oversight in the garment sector.

“In general, the unions always call on the government to keep vigilance over the working environment and conditions of factories to ensure high standards,” said Chea Mony, president of the Free Trade Union. “But the government seems not to pay attention to the unions’ concerns about the lives of factory workers.”

Nou Ngeth, the mother of one of the women who died, said she was not yet thinking about compensation from the company. “I don’t have time to think about compensation right now,” she said. “I will have to finish preparing for her funeral.