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Morocco: Rage and sadness at this weekend's Casablanca factory fires

This weekend saw two deadly fires, one in a mattress and another in a textile factory, break out in Morocco's economic capital, Casablanca. Dozens of people died from asphyxia after being locked into their workplace by employers. The Moroccan blogosphere responds with questions and expressions of anger and sadness.

In a post entitled “Morocco in Mourning [fr]” the author of Zainabi qualified these incidents as a “national catastrophe [fr].” He went on to add: “When we see [major Moroccan media source] 2M covering royal activities before speaking about these victims, we feel even worse, even more unhappy. Upsetting, saddening, revolting! [fr]”

Blogger Moi dans tous mes etats [Me, in all my states] questions the process of implementing workplace safety measures in a post entitled “Welcome tohell in casablanca : 55 sur 100 … c'est beaucoup!!” (Welcome to Hell in Casablanca: 55 out of 100…that's a lot!), as well as calling upon Moroccan unions to remember these events come May Day:

55% est un grand chiffre ….
55% des ouvriers d'une usine à Lyssasfa sont morts suite à une incendie …
55 sur 100 sont morts principalement par asphixie …
55 sur 100 sont morts parce que le patron a fermé l'usine à clef pour que le prolétariat travaille …
55 sur 100 sont morts et les bouches d'incendie ne marchaient par …
55 sur 100 sont victimes du capitalisme barbare, de la corruption, …
Où est le controle des services des inspecteurs du travail …
Où est le gars qui a autorisé l'usine sans vérifier les installations de sécurité …
A quoi bon de parler encore de la sécurité dans les lieux du travail?
J'espère qu'au premier Mai, nos syndicats parleront aussi des conditions de travail …
Pour l'instant, je présente mes sincères condoléances aux familles des victimes.

55% is a large number…
55% of the workers in the Lyssasfa factory died in a fire [there]…
55 out of 100 died mainly from asphixia…
55 out of 100 died because the boss locked the factory so that the proletariat would work…
55 out of 100 are dead and the fire hydrants didn't work…
55 out of 100 are victims of corruption and barbarous capitalism…
Where were the security checks by the workplace inspectors?
Where was the guy who approved the factory without checking the security installations?
What good does it do now to talk about workplace safety?
I hope that on May 1st [International Worker's Day], our unions will also speak about workplace conditions…
For now, I present my sincere condolences to the victims’ families.

Anglophone blogger Adilski at A Moro in America reminds readers that all of Moroccan society is implicated in such tragedies in small ways:

Everybody knows that corruption and lack of laws’ enforcement is the main cause of this tragic event. But, there is a sense of complicity amongst all groups within the Moroccan society who turn the blind eye on violations and lax attitude towards the violation of laws. We all let it slide when Mqeddem takes few dozen Dirhams to let you build an extra room in your building or expand a garden to the public domain. We don't complain when a Gendarme lets it slide for 30 Dirhams when your buddy was 20 kms above the legal speed, but we complain about the high rate of accidents in Morocco. The pig picture of the country's situation is made up of small details; and we are almost involved in all those small details. If we turn the blind eye on the small violations, we get paid back in big calamities such as the horrendous road accidents and the mass deaths of impoverished workers at a sweat shop of highly inflammable material.[en]

Besides venting his own anger and dismay at this weekend's recent events, Jamal, the author of Comment Vous le dire? (How can I tell you?) questions the entire administrative apparatus which allowed for the factory to pass safety checks in the first place, and calls for an examination of all documents related to the construction of these sites:

Ça fait terriblement mal que de voir se consumer, autant de vies humaines, sur l’autel de l’avidité des uns et sur celui de la cupidité des autres.

Ces métaphores peuvent peut être choquer, je le sais ! Néanmoins l’intention, comme vous devez vous en doutez, ça n’est pas de le faire.

Le but, c’est de dire combien peut être soudaine, malheureuse et inacceptable une tragédie qui fait une bonne demie centaine de victimes en très peu de temps. C’est de dire aussi toute ma rage, et celle, sans aucun doute, de millions de marocains qui ne peuvent ni comprendre, ni admettre, qu’on puisse perdre, en moins de six mois, autant de victimes des causes de l’incurie, du laisser-aller et de l’inconscience qui prévalent dans notre administration.

Nous avions soulevé, en moult circonstances, et attiré, plusieurs fois, l’attention des pouvoirs publics sur les catastrophes qui peuvent survenir, à tout moment, du fait du non respect des normes de construction et de sécurité lors de l’édification de bâtisses à usage d’habitation, à usage administratif ou à usage industriel.

Encore que dans le cas des bâtiments administratifs les normes sont relativement bien respectées. Pourquoi alors ne le sont-ils plus dès lors que le promoteur est un particulier ou une entreprise ? Tout simplement parce qu’il est un ramassis de corrompus qui sévissent en toute impunité dans notre administration, qui pourrissent la vie aux citoyens, et qui parfois, comme c’était le cas à Kenitra il y a quelques semaines et samedi à Lissasfa, abrègent, à la place du Mektoub, des vies humaines.

Difficile d’admettre en effet que des femmes et des hommes, partis deux heures plutôt pour aller travailler, se retrouvent soudainement et traîtreusement prises au piège d’un incendie qui prendra tout son temps pour les calciner et les asphyxier sans qu’elles aient pu avoir la moindre chance de pouvoir s’échapper d’une usine dont on avait pris le soin de sceller toutes les issues pour éviter, dit-on, d’éventuel vols.

C’est trop facile, et surtout trop tard, pour dire, maintenant que 55 personnes ont péri, que les fenêtres étaient grillagées, que les issues de secours étaient inexistantes ou que le proprio de l’usine ne respectait pas les normes de sécurité.

J’aimerais bien savoir où étaient les préposés aux contrôles avant que cela n’arrive ? Où étaient surtout les consciences de tous ceux qui avaient délivrées toutes les attestations de conformité aux normes de sécurité au promoteur du projet ?

Si questionnements et poursuites devront avoir lieu, ce qui nous semble être le minimum que les pouvoirs publics doivent faire dans pareils cas, il y aura lieu alors de remonter toute la filière administrative qui a eu à instruire les différents dossiers concernant cette usine…

Même pour un non spécialiste, et rien que vue de dehors, cette construction n’a pas les allures d’une usine. Depuis quand construit-on des usines comme on construit des immeubles ? Sachant que les mesures de prévention les plus efficaces sont celles qui s’exercent en amont, dès la conception et la construction des locaux. Elles permettent de garantir de bonnes conditions d’évacuation, de mieux prendre en compte l’isolement, la séparation et les distances de sécurité pour empêcher, ou limiter, la propagation de l’incendie, ainsi que le choix des matériaux pour assurer la stabilité de la structure et réduire l’émission de gaz et fumées en cas de sinistre.

Vue de dedans, je ne vous dis pas que cette usine ne répondait, selon les réponses apportées à nos questions par ceux qui y travaillaient, à aucune des normes de sécurité exigibles. Pas de détecteurs de fumées, de chaleur ou de flamme, pas de dispositifs de désenfumage, pas de système de détection d’incendies, pas d’extincteurs mobiles, pas de robinets d’incendies armés, pas de cloisons ni de portes coupe-feux, pas d’issues de secours….

J’arrête à ce niveau la liste de ce qui aurait du nécessairement exister sur ce site avant la délivrance de toute autorisation pour l’exercice d’une activité industrielle…

Observer 2 minutes de silence et de recueillement, le 27 avril de chaque année, à la mémoire des 55 victimes de Lissasfa serait le meilleur hommage que l'on pourrait rendre à cette classe ouvrière qui souvent paye cash l'incurie des uns et l'avidité des autres…

It’s horrible to see so many human lives sacrificed on the altar of the greediness of some and the cupidity of others.

These metaphors might be shocking, I know! Nevertheless the intention, as you may suspect, lies not therein.

The goal is to say how suddenly, unfortunately and unacceptably a tragedy that takes over 50 victims can happen in such a short period of time. It’s also to say how much anger I have, as much as millions of Moroccans, who can neither understand nor admit that so many victims can be lost in such a short time, due to carelessness and recklessness.

We have raised in multiple circumstances and drawn the attention of public services several times to the catastrophes that can occur at any moment from not respecting construction and safety regulations when buildings are being built for habitation, industry or businesses.

Also, administrative buildings usually do meet standards. So why don’t they do the same when a real estate developer is working for an individual or a company? Quite simply because they’re a bunch of corrupted jerks who crack down on our administration which decays citizens’ lives and even sometimes, as in the case of Kenitra a few weeks ago and this past Saturday in Lissasfa, abridge human lives instead of leaving it up to Fate [Mektoub].
It’s difficult to admit that women and men who’d left two hours earlier suddenly and treacherously find themselves trapped in a fire which took its own sweet time to burn off and asphyxiate them without them being able to even attempt to escape from the factory, all of whose exits, they say, were sealed off so as to prevent theft.

It’s too easy and especially too late, now that 55 people have perished, to say that the windows were barred, the safety exits inexistent or that the factory owner didn’t respect security regulations.

I’d like to know where the security inspectors were before all this occurred? Particularly, where were the consciences of all those who had attested to this building’s conforming to safety codes when it was being developed?

If questioning and follow-ups are to take place, this seems to us the minimum that the public authorities must do [and] in this case, the entire administrative network will have to be inspected for all those who hold dossiers concerning this factory…

Even to a non-specialist, and only seen from outside, this construction doesn’t look like a factory. Since when do we build factories like apartment buildings? Knowing that the most effective preventative measures take place during the planning stages, right at the conception and construction of the premises; they allow for ease of evacuation, take isolation, separation and distance into account for safety to prevent or limit the propagation of fire, as well as the choice of building materials to assure the structure’s stability and reduce the emissions of gas and smoke in a fire area.

Seen from inside, I won’t tell you that this factory did not respond, according to the responses our questions received from those who worked there, to even the basic norms mandated for safety. No smoke, heat or fire detectors, no ventilation system, no fire extinguishers, no firewalls or doors, no safety exits.

I’ll stop here in this list of everything that should have existed on site before it was given any authorization to exercise industrial activity…

Let’s observe 2 minutes of silence and contemplation, every 27 of April from now on, in the memory of these 55 Lissasfa victims, which will be the best homage we can give to this working class who so often pays for others’ greed and carelessness in cash [i.e. their lives].

Blogger Hdidane vents his anger through his post Serie noire: 2e incendie a Casa (Black -or fatal- Series: Second Fire in Casa):

7didane* est furieux !
Mêmes conditions : Des gens enfermés dans des locaux non conformes aux lois de sécurité marocaines.
Hier soir, un 2ème incendie à eu tout son temps pour griller des ouvriers qui passaient leurs nuits sur place.
Leurs cris de secours ont réveillé les riverains, sans les faire sortir de leur prison.
J’attends l’EXEMPLE !
7didane a perdu sa voie.
Comment faire pour permettre aux syndiques de publier la liste des usines non conformes aux normes ?
7didane étudie le problème. Peut-être un site web avec la possibilité de noté des entreprises et laisser des critiques, et des mails réguliers aux responsables avec la liste des criminels.
Le fils de pute qui ne sait pas maitriser sa chaine de provisionning sans emprisonner ses ouvriers, pour ne pas voler dit-on, n’a pas les compétences et n’est pas assez mature pour obtenir des crédits ou même avoir la licence d’ouvrir.
CRIMINELS !

7didane* is furious!
Same conditions: people locked up in places which did not meet moroccan safety standards.
Last night, a second fire took its own sweet time to roast workers who spent the night on the premisis.
Their cries for help woke up the neighborhood, though they didn't help them to escape from their prison.
I see a pattern here!
7didane has lost his way.
What can we do to allow our unions to publish a list of factories who aren't up to [safety] standards?
7didane is studying the problem. Perhaps a website with the possibility to report such companies and to leave criticism, and regular emails to those in charge with the list of these criminals.
The son of a bitch who can't manage his production line without emprisoning his workers, “to prevent theft,” they say, isn't competent and mature enough to get loans or even to obtain a [business] license to open his company.
CRIMINALS!

One of the authors of English-speaking blog The View from Fez writes:

The mattress factory blaze is the worst industrial incident in Morocco. Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa who visited the site, at the head of an official delegation sent by King Mohammed VI, pledged that an investigation into the cause of the blaze would also examine security measures and work conditions at the factory.

Blogger Larbi responds not only by calling into question the monarchy, the prime minister and the government, but also to the revelation of an amateur video, which many bloggers are criticising as being in poor taste, made at the scene of one of the fires:

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que quand une incendie grave et dramatique se déclenche quelque part, le roi n’a pas besoin de donner ses « Hautes instructions royales pour secourir les victimes.».

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que les secours doivent être apportés spontanément et sur le champ. Sans attendre des instructions royales ! Si toutefois le respect de la vie humaine signifie encore quelque chose.

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que tout ce qui va être dit dans les prochains jours sur le drame humain de Lissasfa a été dit auparavant , et à plusieurs occasions, notamment lors de l’effondrement de l’immeuble de Kenitra! Et qu’entre temps rien n’a changé ou presque.

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que des usines comme celui de Lissasfa il y en a probablement beaucoup d’autres et que des immeubles comme celui de Kenitra il y en a aussi beaucoup d’autres au Maroc . Nous n’irons pas qu’à dire que face à la médiocrité et l’incompétence des gérants de ce pays, il faut hélas se résigner à attendre d’autres incendies et effondrements pour les découvrir .

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que le silence du premier ministre nous n’étonne pas tant depuis longtemps il a été réduit à un simple fonctionnaire chargé de recevoir les ambassadeurs et les syndicats et que s’il faut chercher une responsabilité politique dans cette affaire il faut la chercher auprès de ceux qui décident et qui gouvernent…

Nous n’irons pas jusqu’à dire que nous avons beaucoup de peine pour les familles des victimes et que c’est qui nous chagrine le plus c’est que ce drame aurait pu et aurait du être évité . Que ce qui nous chagrine le plus c’est qu’il y avait des morts avant Lissasfa et qu’il y aura des morts après Lissasfa .

Non! Nous ne dirons rien de tout cela pour éviter d’être taxés de nihilistes. Nous nous contentons de ceci : ce film de très mauvais goût n’amuse plus personne !

We won’t go so far as to say that when a serious and dramatic fire breaks out somewhere, the king doesn’t need to give his “Supreme royal instructions to save the victims.”

We won't go so far as to say that help should be given spontaneously and immediately. Without waiting for royal instructions ! If, that is, respect for human life still means anything anymore.

We won’t go so far as to say that everything that will be said in the coming days about the human drama at Lissasfa has already been said, and repeatedly, notably when the apartment building in Kenitra crumbled [crushing residents inside]! And that in between these two incidents nothing has hardly changed…

We won’t go so far as to say that there are probably lots of other factories like Lissasfa and apartment buildings like the one in Kenitra throughout Morocco. We wont go so far as to say that when confronted with mediocrity and incompetence of this country’s managers, we must –alas!- resign ourselves to waiting for subsequent fires and building collapses to discover them.

We won’t go so far as to say that the prime minister’s silence does not surprise us since he was reduced to a simple civil servant a long time ago, only charged with receiving ambassadors and unions and that if you want to find those politically responsible in this whole affair, you’ll have to find them among those the decision-makers and the governors…

We won’t go so far as to say that we feel a tremendous amount of sorrow for the victims’ families, nor that that which saddens us the most is that this drama could have been avoided. [No,] that which saddens us the most is that there were deaths before Lissasfa and that there will be deaths after Lissasfa.

No ! We won’t say anything about all that so as to avoid being charged as nihilists. We will suffice ourselves with this: this film is in very poor taste and doesn’t amuse anyone!

The View from Fez also reports that:

King Mohammed VI sent a condolence message to the families of the victims and vowed to take in charge the hospitals and burial expenses of the victims.

________________________
*For Arabic-speakers who seek to transliterate certain Arabic sounds into the latin alphabet, the 7 symbol is used to indicate a strong velarized “H” sound.

3 comments

  • I live in Marrakesh, and won’t go to the Film Festivals any more. After going to a well-known movie theater in the center of town, I found that they had LOCKED ALL THE MAIN ENTRANCE/EXIT DOORS requiring everyone to climb up into the BALCONY, and then go down the stairs from there, rather than through the main doors to exit. The theater was PACKED to capacity or more, with standing room only.

    Theater employees told me they had been told by the theater owner to do that. The reason given had been that there were so many people there for the next show, in the lobby, that their idea was to empty the theater by the balcony door exits, and after it was empty, to open the main doors to let in the clients for the next show. (In non-Festival times, they don’t lock the doors).

    I am a teacher, and the following week, our school had a field trip to the Marrakesh fire department. I spoke with the fire chief himself about this and asked how it could be permitted! He told me that they had told the theater owner not to do that, but that they didn’t have any power/authority/juristiction to stop him! So I have never attended the film festival again. The whole reason I went to that theater is that I thought it would be one of the few SAFE places to go in terms of crown control. This happened about eight years ago. Luckily there have not been any fires in theaters here that I know of.

    It is possible that things have changed now, but I haven’t bothered to find out.

    Madame Monet, in Marrakesh, Morocco
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine
    winewriter.wordpress.com

  • […] Read more at Global Voices. […]

  • Also wheres the cops when u need them. No wonder only 30% voted out of 100% this time in parliament.
    As other countries succeed and prosper. we fall behind because of greed ,selfcentered.Not caring about others as we should.
    Conclusion:
    “Forgiveness is freeing up and putting to better use the energy once consumed by holding grudges, harboring resentments, and nursing unhealed wounds. It is rediscovering the strengths we always had and relocating our limitless capacity to understand and accept other people and ourselves”.

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