Over 2,000 homeless in Cebu fire

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Thursday, August 18, 2011


CEBU CITY -- A fire that raged for nearly two hours burned more than 150 houses in two Cebu City barangays Wednesday noon.

As many as 2,252 persons were left homeless, but the final number may be higher. The flames also forced more than 1,000 pupils out of a public school building, while customers of a nearby motel scampered out of harm's way.

The fire burned an estimated P2.6 million worth of belongings.

As of 9:30 p.m., the City Government's Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS) recorded at least 2,252 individuals displaced by the fire.

Of the number, 1,417 are from Sitio Ponce in Barangay Carreta, while 835 are from Sitios Terra Cura, Sambag and Tariman in Barangay Tejero.

At least 70 houses were burned in Barangay Carreta, one of six barangays that did not get its allocation of fire extinguishers from City Hall.

It was Tejero's second fire in less than two months. More than 200 families were left homeless when a fire struck the barangay last July 9.

Firefighters received the general alarm at 11:55 a.m. After 30 minutes of firefighting, some of the fire trucks ran out of water.

Cebu City Fire Marshall Aderson Comar said the firefighters struggled to put out the flames because the roads were so narrow that only the mini-fire trucks from different barangays could approach the fire scene.

Dodoy Cuevas, 56, said that minutes before the fire, he heard an explosion in a neighbor's house near the chapel of Sitio Ponce II. The flames burned the chapel as well.

Roads in the affected areas were closed to all vehicles, except fire trucks.

Homeless

Barangay captains Jessielou Cadungog of Tejero and Eduardo Lauron of Carreta declared a state of calamity in their barangays and will use the calamity fund to help the victims.

As soon as she saw thick black smoke from her neighbor's house, Pina Abala picked up her grandchild and ran away from the fire.

After a few minutes, she learned that her house was gone.

"Sakit kayo pamalandungon na wala na mi kabtangan, na masunog lang ang tanan (It's painful to lose everything we ever had to the fire)," she said.

She said her other six family members were working when the fire struck.

All the fire trucks in Cebu City and those of neighboring towns rushed to the scene.

Among the neighboring cities and towns that sent help were Naga, Talisay, Mandaue, Minglanilla, Liloan and Consolacion.

According to the Office of Councilor Jose Daluz III, Barangay Carreta was supposed to get 35 fire extinguishers.

Emergency

Daluz sponsored the resolution for the purchase of 6,000 fire extinguishers worth P10.8 million, for immediate disaster response.

Each of the 80 barangays in Cebu City was given fire extinguishers, with the quantity depending on the size of the barangay. The items were to be distributed to schools, police stations, barangay halls and sitios.

But aside from Barangay Carreta, other barangays that did not get their fire extinguishers were Kalubihan, Lahug, Parian, Sirao and Tagba-o.

Based on the initial investigation, the fire started in a two-storey house where a gas tank allegedly exploded.

However, fire investigators said they will have to investigate further to confirm what caused the fire.

The flames quickly spread through the houses, most of which were made of light materials.

It took at least one hour and 45 minutes before firefighters put the flames out, said SFO3 Jimmy Layao, Cebu City fire investigator.

Rescue

A teenager was rescued by the Philippine Red Cross when a hollow block fell on his left leg.

One of the teachers in Carreta Elementary School fainted amid the tension.

A volunteer firefighter fell down on the slippery floor.

All of them were assisted by the rescue units standing-by in the area.

The Cebu City Government pledged to give food and financial assistance to the victims, who will be temporarily sheltered in the Carreta Sports Complex, Tejero Complex and Carreta Elementary School grounds.

Barangay captain Lauron told radio DYLA the barangay officials will do their best to help the victims, like asking the Carreta school officials to let the displaced families stay in the school for at least a week, if they can't all fit in the complex.

However, he said the land where the victims settled belongs to the government, and Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama is planning for a road re-blocking that might affect some residents.

There is the possibility, he added, that some victims might not be able to rebuild their houses if the re-blocking limits the space available to settlers. (With Jujemay G. Awit/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2011.

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