Apple supplier Foxlink's fire safety systems mostly faulty, official says
By Praveen Paramasivam and Munsif Vengattil
CHITTOOR, India (Reuters) -Much of the fire safety equipment at Apple supplier Foxlink's facility in southern India was not functional, a government official told Reuters on Tuesday, a day after a blaze halted production at the maker of iPhone charging cables.
The factory is located in the Chittoor district of India's Andhra Pradesh state and is unlikely to resume full operations for two months, raising supply chain concerns for the U.S. tech giant, Reuters reported earlier in the day.
Foxlink was engulfed in a massive fire on Monday that led part of the building to collapse, but there were no casualties.
Except for fire extinguishers, safety systems such as smoke detectors, sprinklers and fire hydrants were faulty, leading to a slower response in containing the fire, said J Ramanaiah, who leads the Fire Services Department in the region.
"The smoke detector was not activated and fire alarms didn't go off," Ramanaiah added.
Apple and Foxlink did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.
The regional fire department will submit a report on the incident to state authorities, which will decide whether to investigate the matter further, said Shuvana Sony, zone manager of the industrial park where the plant is located.
Sony added her previous visits to the plant had shown no safety lapses at the facility.
Some Apple representatives visited the facility for meetings on Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the matter, although what was discussed was not clear.
Foxlink operates a total of 10 assembly lines in two separate facilities at the plant in Andhra, of which four were completely destroyed, one source with knowledge of the situation said. Production at the remaining six assembly lines is expected to resume later this week.
A second source said that Foxlink was a key supplier for Apple in India, and "there could be potential supply chain disruptions for iPhones made in India, or shipped from India".
Cupertino, California-based Apple has bet big on India since it began assembling iPhones in the country in 2017, in line with the Indian government's push for local manufacturing.
The incident is the latest problem to hit one of Apple's 11 suppliers in India.
Production was hit at a facility of Apple contract manufacturer Foxconn in 2021 due to food poisoning among workers, and a Wistron India plant was affected by worker unrest in 2020 over non-payment of wages.
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Foxlink exports charging cables and some other equipment to countries such as China and Hong Kong, with total exports worth $32.2 million since 2022, according to figures from a private customs data provider.
Last year, the data indicates Foxlink exported around 7 million USB-C to lightning cables from India, and in January shipped 1.6 million units. Around 98% of exports were cables.
Foxlink's Indian sales numbers were not immediately clear.
Reuters visited the Foxlink site on Tuesday where part of the building was completely charred and residual smoke was still seen rising in the morning. The factory is surrounded by other industrial units, including one for Indian phone maker Karbonn.
Many workers gathered outside the facility, with some anxious about the status of their contract jobs. They told Reuters the fire broke out during lunch break on Monday.
"The fire became uncontrollable," one worker said, declining to be named.
Other Foxlink workers said they had been asked to not come to work on Wednesday.
A police official said on Monday there was an estimated loss of $12 million at the factory.
(Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in New Delhi and Praveen Paramasivam in Chittoor, Additional reporting by Maurice D. Tamman; Editing by Aditya Kalra, Louise Heavens, Emelia Sithole-Matarise and Sharon Singleton)