Kader Toy Factory fire

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The Kader Toy Factory fire was a fire on 10 May 1993 at a factory in Thailand. It is considered the worst industrial factory fire in history.[1] 188 people were killed, and over 500 were seriously injured. Most of the victims were young female workers from rural families. More people were killed than in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire; despite this, the incident received little media attention outside Thailand. The factory was owned by the Charoen Pokphand (CP) Group, a Thai transnational corporation and one of Asia's largest agribusiness firms.

Fire[edit]

The Kader toy factory manufactured stuffed toys and licensed plastic dolls primarily intended for export to the United States and other developed countries. The toys were produced for Disney, Mattel and others. The factory was located on Phutthamonthon Sai 4 Road, in the Sam Phran District of Nakhon Pathom Province. The structures that were destroyed in the blaze were all owned and operated directly by Kader, which owned the site. Kader has two sister companies that also operated at the location on a lease arrangement.

The factory was poorly designed and built. Fire exits drawn in the building plans were not in fact constructed, and the existing external doors were locked. Furthermore, the building was reinforced with un-insulated steel girders which quickly weakened and collapsed when heated by the flames.

At about 4 PM on 10 May 1993, a small fire was discovered on the first floor of part of the E-shaped building. Workers, located in the upper floors, were instructed to keep working wherein because they were told the fire was said to be minor. The fire alarm in this building did not sound. This part of the building was dedicated to the storage of finished products and the fire spread quickly. Other parts of the factory were full of raw materials which also burned very fast.

Workers in the first building who tried to escape found the ground floor exit doors locked, and the stairwells soon collapsed. Many workers jumped from the second-, third-, and fourth-floor windows in order to escape the flames, resulting in severe injuries or death. Local security guards attempted unsuccessfully to put out the flames, and a call was made at 4:21 PM to the local Nakhon Pathom fire department.

Firefighters arrived at the factory at about 4:40 PM, to find Building One nearly ready to collapse. The fire spread extremely quickly because of the presence of the combustible plastics and fabrics, and reportedly it took less than an hour (only 53 minutes) for Building One to collapse from the time the local police called the fire brigade until 5:14 PM.[2]

Fire alarms in Buildings Two and Three had sounded and all the workers from these buildings were able to escape, but the flames spread to these buildings as well. However, the fire brigades from Nakhon Pathom and neighboring Bangkok were able to put out these fires before these buildings were destroyed.

Aftermath[edit]

Most victims were taken by ambulance to the Sriwichai II Hospital, where 20 of them died. When the northern stairwell of the collapsed building was searched, the bodies of many others were found. These victims died of smoke inhalation, the flames, or the ultimate collapse of the building.

The Kader fire has created a great deal of interest about the country's fire safety measures, particularly its building code design requirements and enforcement policies. Thai Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, who travelled to the scene on the evening of the fire, has pledged that the government will address fire safety issues. According to the Wall Street Journal (1993), Leekpai has called for tough action against those who violate the safety laws. Thai Industry Minister Sanan Kachornprasart is quoted as saying that "Those factories without fire prevention systems will be ordered to install one, or we will shut them down".

The Wall Street Journal goes on to state that labour leaders, safety experts, and officials say that the Kader fire may help tighten building codes and safety regulations, but they fear that lasting progress is still far off as employers flout rules and governments allow economic growth to take priority over worker safety.

As of March 2012, there is a large housing project of both townhouses and single family homes under construction on the site of the fire, being built by Pruksa, a major developer of residential subdivisions in the Bangkok metropolitan area. Potential home owners are not being informed that the property is the site of this infamous industrial accident, for fear that superstitious Thais will refuse to live there for fear of being haunted by the ghosts of the dead workers who perished in the fire.

Media references[edit]

New Zealand singer-songwriter Don McGlashan released a song about the disaster, Toy Factory Fire, on his 2006 album Warm Hand. The song is narrated from the imagined perspective of a New York-based toy company executive who, in the week of the 10th anniversary of the fire, is looking at a number of photographs of the disaster's aftermath. "Here's Bart Simpson with his arms all melted and twisted," he begins. And later: "They said it was a death trap from a text book... Keeping them [the photos] hidden was the best work I ever did."

References[edit]

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