Philippines Mall Dozens Trapped and Feared Dead in Fire

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

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At least 37 people were trapped inside a burning shopping mall in the southern Philippines city of Davao. The cause of the fire remains unknown. CreditYas D. Ocampo, via Reuters

MANILA — Fire crews battling an enormous blaze that tore through a shopping mall in a southern city in the Philippines, trapping at least 37 people, pulled one body from the building, the mayor said on Sunday.

But the vice mayor said there was “zero” chance of survival for the other 36.

Firefighters have been unable to enter the mall in Davao City after the fire started on Saturday morning, the vice mayor, Paolo Duterte, said.

“Our firemen are still struggling to find a way in as the fire is still burning,” Mr. Duterte said. He said of those still trapped inside, “Their chances of survival is zero.”

Mayor Inday Sara Duterte said that one body had been recovered and that rescuers’ priority was now to find all those who are missing.

“Do not stop until you find the 37,” she said, calling the mall fire “an unfortunate incident.”

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The blaze began Saturday morning. Twenty-four hours later the fire continued to burn, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter the building. CreditManman Dejeto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The blaze erupted as city officials and emergency-relief workers were trying to rescue survivors of flash floods and landslides unleashed by Tropical Storm Tembin elsewhere in the region. The storm slammed into the eastern portion of Mindanao late Thursday, dumping torrential rains.

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By Sunday, the death toll stood at 231, officials said, with scores more missing.

President Rodrigo Duterte, the father of Davao City’s mayor and vice mayor, visited the mall on Saturday night and met with family members of those inside. Photographs released by his office showed him consoling relatives and wiping tears from his eyes.

The president, who was previously mayor of Davao City and was in town for the holidays, “assured the relatives of the victims that the government would extend help,” said Harry Roque, Mr. Duterte’s spokesman.

The cause of the fire remains unknown. Officials said the blaze started near a furniture store on the building’s third floor. Many locals were doing their Christmas shopping, and employees were wrapping up their workweek before the holiday. Officials said many of the people trapped inside worked at a call center inside the mall.

More than 24 hours later, the building remained on fire and was too dangerous to enter, the authorities said.

“We are currently coordinating with the authorities,” said Thea Septaan Padua, a spokeswoman for the mall, adding that for now, no deaths had been confirmed.

The authorities have been on heightened alert amid fears that Islamist militants could target shopping malls and other public areas. In September, when the president was visiting Davao, militants who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State bombed a night market in the city, killing 15 people.

Islamist Bombing In Philippines Presidents Home Town

 

10 killed, 60 wounded in Davao explosion

A photo from Twitter account of Fr. Jboy Gonzales of Ateneo de Davao University shows a SWAT team securing Roxas market where the explosion occurred.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – A powerful blast ripped through a crowded public market in this city before midnight last night, killing 10 people instantly and leaving more than 60 others wounded.

The blast occurred in the massage area of the popular Roxas night market, which was packed with people relaxing at the end of the workweek in bars, massage parlors and roadside food stalls.

Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, who is acting mayor in lieu of his sister Sara, ordered establishments in the market temporarily shuttered as the area was cordoned off by police and a lockdown was ordered in the city.

The blast occurred while President Duterte is at his home in this city.

Authorities still have to establish if the explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device or by a liquefied petroleum gas tank.

Witnesses said they heard a loud explosion and saw smoke. A masseuse said the blast appeared to have come from a chair.

The Davao Police Regional Office chief said up to 12 people might have been killed in the blast.

The wounded were rushed to different hospitals, with many brought to the Southern Philippines Medical Center.

Panicked people rushed to the nearby Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) campus, where authorities also ordered a lockdown.

The ADDU advised students inside the campus to stay calm as it assured them of their safety.

“The ground floor of the community center is currently serving as the clinic. Students and victims may seek first aid help there,” ADDU said in its official Twitter account.

“It is highly advisable to stay indoors, and avoid going to crowded public spaces such as malls and parks to be safe,” it added.

The blast occurred following President Duterte’s order to the military to crush the Abu Sayyaf.

On March 4, 2003, a bomb exploded at a waiting shed at the Davao International Airport, killing 21 people and leaving about 145 people wounded. A month later on April 3, the city’s Sasa Wharf was also bombed, leaving 17 dead and 56 wounded.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed responsibility for the airport attack. Several members of the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front were later apprehended in connection with the bombings.

Hours after the wharf bombing, three mosques in the city were bombed by masked men.  – With Janvic Mateo