Valenzuela mourns as more bodies found in gutted factory

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(CNN Philippines) — The Valenzuela City Hall flew its flags at half-mast on Thursday (May 14) as firefighters recovered more bodies of workers trapped in a footwear factory gutted by a seven-hour fire a day before.

Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian also started using a black header in his Facebook account as a sign of mourning for what he called the biggest fire that ever hit the city in terms of casualties.

The official Twitter and Facebook accounts of the city also had a black header.

At 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, the city council convened to tackle the declaration of a citywide state of mourning, which would require government offices in the city to put their flags at half-mast.

The council declared a state of mourning for the whole city at 4:00 p.m.

At least 72 bodies retrieved

By 1:40 p.m., 72 bodies had already been retrieved, according to the Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO).

The bodies were taken to the Maysan Barangay Hall where the city had set up a Family Assistance Center for the relatives of the victims.

Relatives of the dead could then identify the bodies of their loved ones with the assistance of more than 40 SOCO members.

Earlier, at an 11:00 a.m. media conference, Gatchalian gave an update on the retrieval of bodies and assured families of the victims that financial, burial, and legal assistance would be provided.

On Wednesday, initial reports from the Bureau of Fire Protection said that at least 28 skulls were found inside the factory in addition to the three confirmed dead, which brought the death toll to 31 people.

Related: Valenzuela factory fire kills 31

A fact sheet released on Wednesday by Valenzuela City initially reported that at least 68 workers were missing.

More bodies were said to be trapped at the second floor but firefighters were not able to investigate as the weakened structure is close to collapse.

Meanwhile, BFP reported that 48 workers managed to escape the fire.

Five survivors were brought to the Chinese General Hospital for treatment by the city's search and rescue officials.

Sparks

The investigation on the cause of the fire is still ongoing.

Steve Chua, a worker in the factory, told police that sparks from welding repairs on the factory’s roll-up gate could have ignited the chemicals used in producing the rubber slippers.

The fire spread in seconds.

“We tried to put the fire out by pouring water and using the fire extinguisher but it was difficult already,” Chua said in Filipino.

In an hour, the alarm was raised to Task Force Charlie, the fourth highest alarm.

Thick smoke from the highly combustible rubber materials also made it hard for the firefighters to put out the fire and look for more survivors.

The fire was declared out by 6:47 p.m. on Wednesday.

Kentex Manufacturing Corp. is owned by a certain chinese businessman named Ong King Guan.

CNN Philippines' Gerg Cahiles, Mikas Matsuzawa, Rex Remitio, and Patricia Ongsiako contributed to this report.