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WEDNESDAY, 16 APR 2014
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Two dead in factory blaze, mayor slams delay in firefighters’ arrival
Ten firefighting vehicles took over two hours to put out the fire, which ripped through the three-story warehouse. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Ten firefighting vehicles took over two hours to put out the fire, which ripped through the three-story warehouse. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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JADRA, Lebanon: Two people were killed and three injured when a huge fire erupted Tuesday morning at a furniture factory in the Iqlim al-Kharoub town of Jadra.

The local mayor criticized the delay in the arrival of Civil Defense teams at the Inter Caza factory, as the first firefighting vehicles did not arrive until 45 minutes after the fire broke out at 10 a.m.

The fire – thought to have started while maintenance was being conducted on air conditioning units – quickly ripped through the three-story warehouse, which houses large supplies of flammable materials from sponges to glues, and caused huge material damage on top of the loss of life.

Both of the deceased were Lebanese citizens, and were not full-time employees, but were conducting the maintenance. One was identified as Hisham Hallal, in his 30s, from the southern village of Habboush.

Of the three injured, who were all contract staff at the factory, one was hurt and two others suffered suffocation. All three were transferred to a local hospital for treatment.

The fire erupted when workers were conducting maintenance on the air conditioning units, in a section of the factory dedicated to recovering sofas, and where there was a huge quantity of sponges and glues, and then it quickly spread to other parts of the factory, which covered a total of 2,000 square meters.

Water sprinklers kicked in automatically but had little effect due to the size of the fire and how quickly it spread, prompting workers to step in using extinguishers until the Civil Defense personnel from Sidon, Iqlim al-Kharoub and Beirut, along with Sidon’s firefighting unit arrived.

While thanking Civil Defense personnel for their work, the mayor of Jadra, Father Joseph Qazzi, said, “We call on the Interior Ministry to provide the Civil Defense with vehicles and personnel. The fire was huge, particularly because of the flammable materials, and has caused a huge material loss, and sadly also fatalities.”

Highlighting the 45-minute time period between the outbreak of the fire and the arrival of Civil Defense personnel, Qazzi added, “After 11 a.m., Civil Defense vehicles arrived from other municipalities, but it was already too late.

“I call on the Interior Minister [Marwan Charbel] and the Civil Defense to support the body’s network in our area,” he added, noting that there have been several other fires in recent years in the Jadra, including at the Hammoud factory.

When firefighters arrived, sources said they faced many difficulties in putting out the blaze due to the size of the factory and the range of flammable materials, but they were able to isolate the carpentry section.

The fire soon created huge clouds of smoke, which covered the skies of Sidon, and residents of surrounding buildings evacuated their homes fearing that the flames might reach them.

Sources said the factory was opened only one year ago, and that it provides jobs for around 100 people of Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian nationalities.

Ten firefighting vehicles were used to put out the blaze and after more than two hours, firefighters were able to extinguish the fire. During the fire, several explosions occurred also due to the flammable material.

Members of the Internal Security Forces arrived at the scene and have begun an investigation into how the fire broke out.

Many local mayors and prominent figures also came to visit the scene.

Qazzi said, “This is a big economic loss for the area and all families which gain their living from it.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 17, 2012, on page 4.
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