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Kader Industrial Doll Factory Fire ,The Fire

 

Monday, May 10, was a normal workday at the Kader facility. At approximately 4:00 p.m., as the end of the day shift approached, someone discovered a small fire on the first floor near the south end of Building One. This portion of the building was used to package and store the finished products, so it contained a considerable fuel load (see figure 39.14). Each building at the facility had a fuel load composed of fabric, plastics and materials used for stuffing, as well as other normal workplace materials.

Security guards in the vicinity of the fire tried unsuccessfully to extinguish the flames before they called the local police fire brigade at 4:21 p.m. Authorities received two more calls, at 4:30 p.m. and 4:31 p.m. The Kader facility is just beyond the jurisdictional boundaries of Bangkok, but fire apparatus from Bangkok, as well as apparatus from Nakhon Pathom Province, responded.

As the workers and security guards tried in vain to extinguish the fire, the building began filling with smoke and other products of combustion. Survivors reported that the fire alarm never sounded in Building One, but many workers grew concerned when they saw smoke on the upper floors. Despite the smoke, security guards reportedly told some workers to stay at their stations because it was a small fire that would soon be under control.

The fire spread rapidly throughout Building One, and the upper floors soon became untenable. The blaze blocked the stairwell at the south end of the building, so most of the workers rushed to the north stairwell. This meant that approximately 1,100 people were trying to leave the third and fourth floors through a single stairwell.

The first fire apparatus arrived at 4:40 p.m., their response time having been extended because of the relatively remote location of the facility and the gridlock conditions typical of Bangkok traffic. Arriving fire-fighters found Building One heavily involved in flames and already beginning to collapse, with people jumping from the third and fourth floors.

Despite the fire-fighters' efforts, Building One collapsed completely at approximately 5:14 p.m. Fanned by strong winds blowing toward the north, the blaze spread quickly into Buildings Two and Three before the fire brigade could effectively defend them. Building Two reportedly collapsed at 5:30 p.m., and Building Three at 6:05 p.m. The fire brigade successfully kept the fire from entering Building Four and the smaller, one-storey workshop nearby, and the fire-fighters had the blaze under control by 7:45 p.m. Approximately 50 pieces of fire apparatus were involved in the battle.

The fire alarms in Buildings Two and Three reportedly functioned properly, and all the workers in those two buildings escaped. The workers in Building One were not so fortunate. A large number of them jumped from the upper floors. In all, 469 workers were taken to the hospital, where 20 died. The other dead were found during the post-fire search of what had been the north stairwell of the building. Many of them apparently succumbed to lethal products of combustion before or during the building's collapse. According to the latest information available, 188 people, most of them female, have died as a result of this fire.

Even with the help of six large hydraulic cranes that were moved to the site to facilitate the search for victims, it was several days before all the bodies could be removed from the rubble. There were no fatalities among the fire-fighters, although there was one injury.

Traffic in the vicinity, which is normally congested, made transporting the victims to hospitals difficult. Nearly 300 injured workers were taken to the nearby Sriwichai II Hospital, although many of them were transferred to alternate medical facilities when the number of victims exceeded the hospital's capacity to treat them.

The day after the fire, Sriwichai II Hospital reported that it had kept 111 fire victims. The Kasemrat Hospital received 120; Sriwichai Pattanana received 60; Sriwichai I received 50; Ratanathibet I received 36; Siriraj received 22; and Bang Phai received 17. The remaining 53 injured workers were sent to various other medical facilities in the area. In all, 22 hospitals throughout Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom Province participated in treating victims of the disaster.

Sriwichai II Hospital reported that 80% of their 111 victims suffered serious injuries and that 30% required surgery. Half of the patients suffered only from smoke inhalation, while the remainder also suffered burns and fractures that ranged from broken ankles to fractured skulls. At least 10% of the injured Kader workers admitted to Sriwichai II Hospital risk permanent paralysis.

Determining the cause of this fire became a challenge because the portion of the facility in which it began was totally destroyed and the survivors have provided conflicting information. Since the fire started near a large electrical control panel, investigators first thought that problems with the electrical system might have been the cause. They also considered arson. At this time, however, Thai authorities feel that a carelessly discarded cigarette may have been the source of ignition.

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