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 / Updated  / Source: Reuters

MANILA, Philippines — A blaze gutted a slipper and flip-flop factory killing at least 58 people, authorities said Thursday.

Sparks from a welding machine set ablaze flammable chemicals near the main entrance of the two-story factory on the outskirts of Manila on Wednesday, triggering a huge explosion, followed by billows of black smoke and flames.

"Definitely there will be charges here, because people died," Philippine National Police acting director Leonardo Espina said.

Arson investigators have gone to the site to help city police in the probe, he added.

Factory owner Veato Ang said about 200 to 300 people worked in the plant, which made flip-flops and slippers for Kentex Manufacturing Inc.

Firefighters attempt to control a blaze at a factory that manufactures slippers and flip-flops in Valenzuela City, Philippines, on Wednesday.AL FALCON / Reuters

Identifying the victims will be a difficult task, said Dionesio Candido, whose 19-year-old daughter was among the factory workers.

"I entered the building because I thought I might still be able to identify the remains," the 62-year-old added.

Candido saw four piles of charred bones and skulls, with the victims appearing to be hugging each other.

"When I saw them, (I felt) any parent or sibling would not be able to identify the victims," he said.

The fire reflects poor occupational health and safety standards that are a challenge for Southeast Asia's fastest growing nation to tackle, analysts say.

- Reuters