Cebu fire displaces 270-A A +A
Sunday, March 10, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Not long after they joined a fire drill in a neighboring community, officials of Barangay Sambag 2 found themselves fighting a real fire that destroyed more than 50 families’ houses.
They faced challenges familiar to firefighters: roads so narrow they had to connect hoses just to reach the fire scene, plus the lack of control in a panicky crowd.
It was the second fire to hit Cebu City this Fire Prevention Month. The first was on Gorordo Ave., Barangay Lahug, which destroyed one house and a Kia Pride.
Barangay Sambag 2 chief Carl Belarmino said the barangay placed two sitios -- Maharlika and Palsy Side -- under a state of calamity. They held a special session Sunday morning, just hours after the fire, so the barangay’s calamity fund will be immediately released.
Based on the barangay’s records, Belarmino said there were 54 families or some 270 individuals displaced by the fire.
The fire reportedly damaged an estimated P1.5 million in property.
The fire alarm was received at 2:42 a.m. and the blaze was declared under control after 55 minutes. But it wasn’t until 6:50 a.m. that the flames were put out.
“Kinahanglan pa isumpay-sumpay ang hose para malahos sa fire scene. Dili kaayo kasulod ang fire trucks ug naa say mga nag parking na sakyanan sa kilid (We had to connect the hoses to reach the fire scene. The fire trucks couldn’t get closer because there were vehicles parked on the side of the road),” explained Fire Officer 2 Antonio Gonzales of the Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP)-Central Visayas.
An initial investigation by the BFP showed the fire may have started in the house of Nelia Gelbolingo.
They have yet to confirm what caused the fire, but Gonzales said a defective electrical system may have been involved. The flames spread quickly through the houses, which were made of light materials.
Two persons suffered minor burns: Basilisa Opada, 87, and Jebort Montero.
The firefighters also lamented that they had difficulty putting out the fire immediately because while they were trying to connect the hoses, some residents grabbed them and interfered with the firefighters’ work.
For residents, the four-hour ordeal must have felt longer.
Magdalena Morata, 64, a tenant in Gelbolingo’s house, said she was shocked when her husband woke her up as the flames raged.
She said they heard Gelbolingo shouting for help.
“Katong ubang boarders nitabang ug pawong sa kayo didto sa iyang (Gelbolingo) kwarto. Ilang gibubu-an ug tubig ang kisame pero wa na gyud matabang (Some of the other tenants helped put out the fire in Gelbolingo’s room. They threw water at the ceiling but that didn’t put the flames out),” said Morata.
She said there were over 10 occupants in Gelbolingo’s house. She and her husband rented one of its rooms.
“Wala gyud intawon mi nasalbar kay nanagan na lang mi sa kahadlok (We didn’t save anything because we ran away in fear),” Morata said.
As to the aid being prepared for survivors, village chief Belarmino said they are still finalizing the amount since the number of fire victims is still being validated by the City’s Department of Social Welfare Services (DSWS).
Based on the barangay’s records, though, Belarmino said there were 54 families displaced or some 270 individuals.
“I think the number will still go up once the validation conducted by DSWS will be finished,” he said.
Belarmino said it was unfortunate that their barangay was struck by fire, saying that they had just helped a neighboring barangay, Sambag I, hold a fire drill.
The DSWS started giving food to the fire survivors on Sunday. The food assistance will be given by DSWS for three days.
Housing materials will also soon be given to the survivors, both by the DSWS and the barangay.
Belarmino said the affected families can rebuild their homes because the area razed by fire is a socialized housing site of the National Housing Authority.
In fact, Belarmino said that majority of the families already have titles to their home lots.
3 in province
Three fires were already reported in Cebu Province, with two casualties. One house was burned in Dalaguete, Cebu on March 2.
Last March 6, fire also hit a public school and damaged one of its buildings in Barangay Cogon, Cordova, Cebu.
Three classrooms of Cogon Elementary School were gutted in the blaze that broke out at 6:15 p.m. after the students and teachers had gone home.
No one was injured.
Last March 7, two siblings, including a child with a disability, were killed after fire engulfed their house in a remote area in Compostela, Cebu.
Jolito Dejesica, 14, and his sister Maricar, 2, were trapped inside their family’s shanty in Sitio Batching, Barangay Cabadiangan.
The BFP reminded the public to be cautious in handling their electrical appliances, as these are the common causes of fire. (Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 11, 2013.