800 left homeless in Cebu City

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

CEBU CITY -- Nearly 800 individuals were left homeless and a firefighter got injured when flames spread through three sitios in Barangays Quiot and Kinasang-an in Cebu City Wednesday dawn.

The fire struck just nine hours after another fire in Barangays Carreta and Tejero, in Cebu City’s north district, burned around 200 houses in three sitios.

The Cebu City Council declared on Wednesday a state of calamity in four barangays that two fires hit in as many days this week.

The City’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) was still attending to fire survivors in Barangays Carreta and Tejero, after last Tuesday’s blaze, when the calls for help came from Quiot and Kinasang-an.

The DSWS typically provides food for fire survivors for the first three days.

DSWS Chief Ester Concha said her office was still finalizing the list of affected individuals, but that the fire in Carreta and Tejero displaced at least 440 families or 1,585 individuals. She said at least 250 houses were lost.

The fire on Wednesday was classified as one that required a Task Force Alpha response. It hit Sitios Camansi and Luyang in Barangay Quiot and Sitio Mahayahay 2 of Kinasang-an.

The Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP) received the alarm at 1:30 a.m. and firefighters declared it under control, meaning it was no longer spreading, at 2:56 a.m.

The BFP estimated nearly P1.5 million in properties damaged, with nearly 200 houses razed by the fire.

Senior Fire Officer 1 (SFO1) Lorenzo Cabigas Jr. was reportedly injured after an Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF) fire truck sideswiped him while responding to the fire. But he was declared safe and ERUF shouldered his medical bills.

Image of Jesus Christ stands amid fire
An image of Jesus Christ, placed near a tomb in the Carreta cemetery in Cebu City, towers over the gutted houses in Sitio Laray after a fire that hit two barangays last Tuesday. Another fire before daybreak Wednesday left around 800 more persons homeless, this time in Barangays Kinasang-an and Quiot. (Amper Campaña)


According to SFO2 Lowel Opolenticima, the fire allegedly started in a two-storey house owned by Norma Jacaba.

Opolenticima said that based on their investigation, the fire started in a vacant room on the second floor. Investigators have yet to verify this, as well as what caused the flames.

The fire scene was located in a hilly portion of Barangay Quiot, on its boundary with Kinasang-an, said Opolenticima.

Most of the houses were made of light materials.

Quiot Barangay Captain Francis Espares said there were 124 families or 554 individuals who were left homeless in his village. The fire burned more than 92 houses.

In Kinasang-an, the City Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Services listed some 102 families or 233 individuals as fire victims. At least 83 houses were also destroyed.

Motorcycle driver Tommy Satulomban, 42, said he hoped that the Cebu City Government would help them. His motorcycle, which he used to transport passengers, was burned.

Satulomban said he first rescued his family when he realized a fire had started, but he managed to return home when he saw a path that the fire had spared.

What he saved

He saved a laptop, a 32-inch flat screen television and his wife’s shoulder bag that had some money.

But he suffered burns on his back after running through an area that was on fire, on his way back to where he left his wife and children.

Satulomban and other families are still waiting for the government’s instructions regarding their situation.

“Lisod lagi kaayo kay nawala ko sa akong trabaho pag 2011 mao nga nanghabal-habal na lang ko. Ang problema ani, ang akoang motor, naugdaw sab apil (I resigned from work in 2011 and started working as habal-habal driver, but the fire has destroyed my motorcycle),” said Satulomban.

Mirasol Barcoma, 39, said she called the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) during the incident. She also requested for the Chinese volunteer firefighters’ brigade, who immediately responded to help.

Affected residents and witnesses said that the Barangay Quiot fire truck’s water hoses didn’t reach the burning houses. When the volunteer firefighters arrived, they connected their hoses to reach the affected areas.

Housing supplies

The survivors said they hoped they could avail themselves of the government’s help in acquiring housing materials and cash.

“We can manage to secure food, it’s fine. Our concern is more on the supply of (housing) materials so we could start anew,” Satulomban said.

Satulomban’s wife Maricel was brought to the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center because of a forehead injury.

No casualty was reported.

Espares said the survivors will be housed in the elementary school, about 200 meters away from the fire scene, because the barangay complex is quite far.

The barangay council declared a state of calamity but they will still have to check the funds left from the previous barangay administration, whose terms ended last November 30.

Interviewed separately, Eduardo Lauron, chief of Barangay Carreta, said his village has no calamity funds left.

In a phone interview, Lauron said their calamity fund for this year was already used after the fire that hit their barangay early this year.

He said they will ask for help from the Cebu City Government, in terms of cash assistance for the survivors.

Video of the fire that hit Barangays Carreta and Tejero on Tuesday. (By Armie Garde and Dave Tangarorang)

City’s help

At the City Council, Councilors Eugenio Gabuya Jr. and Gerardo Carrillo jointly sponsored the resolution declaring the state of calamity in the four barangays.

The council’s declaration will allow the barangays to use the City’s calamity funds to help survivors, especially in case a barangay has run out of calamity funds.

Concha of the DSWD said that the City will also give P10,000 as cash assistance to the affected families whose houses were destroyed. Those whose houses were damaged will get P5,000 each.

The Carreta gym and Carreta Elementary School are now being used as evacuation centers.

More than 10 families also chose to stay in the Doña Pepang Cemetery, she added. Tents were distributed.

“They chose to stay there because they wanted to be near in their gutted houses,” Concha told Sun.Star Cebu.

Concha added that they already surveyed the evacuation centers to check what the fire survivors needed. The City has supplied water and portable toilets in the evacuation centers. (Sun.Star Cebu/Rhey Anne Alvarico, USJ-R Mass Comm Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 12, 2013.

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