2 die, 2,500 lose houses in fire

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Monday, April 22, 2013


CEBU CITY -- Nearly 300 families or some 2,500 persons were left homeless in the biggest fire to hit this city so far this year, located in Sitio Bato, Barangay Ermita.

The fire late last Saturday night killed an 11-month-old girl whose father had briefly left to buy her diapers. It also caused a 47-year-old mother of two to panic and suffer a heart attack that killed her.

An estimated P1 million worth of property was destroyed in the fire, which the fire department classified as a Task Force Alpha.

Barangay Ermita, Cebu City fire
SURVEYING THE WRECKAGE. The damage caused by a fire Saturday night in Barangay Ermita, Cebu City is so widespread that it stops motorists in their tracks. The flames left nearly 300 families homeless. (Sun.Star Cebu Photo/Amper Campaña)

The Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP)-Central Visayas received the call for help at 10:20 p.m. and declared the fire under control at 11:27 p.m.

Fire Officer 3 Lowel Opolenticima said the houses were made of light materials, causing the flames to spread quickly.

The fire allegedly started in the house of Toribio Flores Jr., who briefly left his 11-month-old daughter, Mary Claire, in the care of a young nephew so he could go buy some diapers.

By the time Flores returned from the nearby store, flames had already wrapped around his house. His nephew managed to run to safety.

Firefighters recovered Mary Claire’s body at 1 a.m. on Sunday, said Opolenticima.

“We waited for the fire to be totally put out before searching the child,” he said in a phone interview.

Firefighters found the baby outside Flores’s house.

“Two floors man gud ni ang balay ni Toribio. Ang bata naa sa second floor, unya pagsunog natumpag ang balay mao nang ang bata didto nakit-an sa gawas na sa ilang balay kay naugdaw man sad ang balay ani niya (Toribio) (The house is two storeys high. The child was left on the second floor, but the structure collapsed and was destroyed during the fire, which was why the body was found outside),” explained Opolenticima.

Investigators still have to find out how the fire started.

“Mao nay amo pang sutaon kung unsa’y hinungdan kay nikalit man lang kuno ug silaob ang balay ni Toribio (We still have to figure out what caused the fire, because according to the initial reports, the house just suddenly caught on fire),” said Opolenticima.

Belinda Cabigon, 47, suffered a heart attack, which caused her death.

While the fire attacked Cabigon’s house, the woman reportedly panicked as she searched for her two children, aged 12 and 9.

For fear that her two children might have been killed by the blaze, Cabigon, who also suffered from hypertension, reportedly fainted and was rushed to the hospital.

At 3 a.m. Sunday, Cabigon reportedly died.

Both children are safe, after they managed to run away from the fire scene.

Fire survivor Arsenia Dominguez said she was sleeping when her daughter roused her and told her there was a fire. Dominguez failed to save any of her belongings, but all her family members are safe.

Estrelita Paris, whose house was spared by the fire, said they had just finished praying the novena in the chapel when she heard some neighbors shouting for water.

She said she panicked and ran into their house trying to save some important documents. Firefighters managed to put out the fire before it reached Paris’s house.

At least 10 hoses were connected from end to end, just so firefighters could reach the fire scene, which is in an interior portion of the community.

The fire survivors are now temporarily housed in the Barangay Ermita Sports Complex.

Ermita barangay captain Antonieto Flores said the local officials declared a state of calamity but will still have to hold a special session for them to decide how much funds to release to help the survivors.

He said some survivors opted to stay with their relatives as the sports complex is located some 100 to 150 meters away from the fire scene.

“Ang uban decided to stay in their homes since partial ra man ang nasunog sa ilaha (Some whose houses were only damaged decided to stay on the site),” added Flores.

The BFP-Central Visayas will still have to consolidate the total number of houses damaged.

Flores said the sports complex will house the survivors for up to five days.

“Daghan pa man gud mi ug naka schedule sa among complex, pero amo pud tan-awon unsa’y among matabang sa victim. (We have several activities scheduled in the barangay complex, but we will also make sure to check how else we can help the fire victims.) We will still have to meet and decide on this with the barangay council,” explained Flores in a phone interview.

He added that they may also help Toribio Flores, whose daughter died during the fire.

Starting Sunday, the survivors received different donations, including water, mats, blankets and food, from various companies.

Flores added that barangay officials are also waiting for the Cebu City Government’s help.

The barangay captain added that their calamity fund will be used to help rebuild the houses of the survivors. (JBT/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 22, 2013.

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