Morocco mattress factory fire kills 55
Casablanca, April 27, 2008
Fire broke out at a mattress factory in the Moroccan city of Casablanca on Saturday, killing 55 people, and fire-fighters were still searching the smouldering building for more bodies.
Twelve others including a police officer were seriously injured in the blaze which began on the ground floor of the factory and quickly engulfed the four-storey building, trapping workers on the upper floors, witnesses said.
Around 100 of the factory's 150 employees were on site when the fire began at around 10 am and it took more than 100 fire-fighters over three hours to bring it under control, the government said.
Local residents said they broke down a wall to drag people from the building, most of them women and girls, but others remained trapped on the upper floors and cried from the windows for help.
"Some people thought we were looters and tried to stop us, but we got inside the factory and managed to save a girl who was burned but still sitting at her sewing machine," said Rachid Kasmiri, 35.
Onlookers said the rescue operation appeared to have been hampered by a lack of water to douse the flames.
"We didn't know why the firemen were looking at the flames and doing nothing," said Nora Sabrallah, whose 19-year-old son was killed in the fire. "We asked them to save our children but they just pushed us away."
Parts of the factory were still smouldering in the early evening and some sections were too hot for rescue workers to search for more bodies.
Hundreds of local residents and relatives of those missing stood watching nearby, some of them crying and wailing with grief.
MAP said an inquiry was launched to determine the cause of the fire at the Rosamor Ameublements factory in the Hay Hassani neighbourhood of Morocco's economic capital.
"The fire ... spread rapidly throughout the factory because of the nature of the chemical products stored there," MAP said, citing a statement from Casablanca town hall. - Reuters