CHITTOOR - Most 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 massive blaze forced production to be halted.
The factory, which makes charging cables for iPhones, 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. There were no casualties.
Except for fire extinguishers, safety systems such as smoke detectors, sprinklers and fire hydrants were in faulty condition, 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.
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 familiar with the developments 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".
Foxlink also 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 lightening cables from India, and in January shipped 1.6 million units. Foxlink and Apple did not respond to questions about the customs data. Foxlink's Indian sales numbers were not immediately clear.
The incident is the latest problem to hit Apple suppliers in India, from where it is increasingly ramping up manufacturing and exports. Apple has 11 suppliers in the country.
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.
IMPACT ON BUSINESS
Reuters visited the Foxlink site on Tuesday. Part of the building was completely charred, while residual smoke was still rising from other areas.
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, and some air conditioners exploded as fire spread.
"The fire became uncontrollable," one worker said, declining to be named.
The regional fire department will submit a report on the incident to state authorities, which will then decide whether to form a panel to investigate the matter further or not, said Shuvana Sony, zone manager of the industrial park where the Foxlink plant is located.
A police official told Reuters on Monday there was an estimated loss of $12 million at the factory.
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.
(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)