Cebu blaze kills boy, destroys 100 structures

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Sunday, January 12, 2014


CEBU -- Light rain failed to snuff out a fire Saturday that spread across a crowded neighborhood in Sitio Warwick Barracks, Barangay Ermita, Cebu City, killing a 10-year-old boy and wounding six others.

Strong winds fanned the flames and destroyed at least 100 structures, including wooden houses, eateries and market stalls located in a portion of Carbon Public Market.

SFO2 Daniel Relatado Jr., an investigator of the Cebu City Fire Department, said the blaze damaged at least P1 million worth of properties and left hundreds of families homeless.

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Jerry Consas, 10, was found dead in his uncle’s house while firefighters were searching the area at 2:30 p.m.

Relatado said the boy had been awakened by his uncle but failed to go outside the house while the fire grew rapidly.

“Nagtuo sila nga nakasunod ang bata pero wala diay (The family thought the boy had followed them outside, but he didn’t),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.


Siblings made it

The boy was one of three children who were earlier reported missing while the flames swept across the packed commercial area where hundreds of families had also lived. The boy’s two siblings were found safe.

An initial investigation showed the fire may have started in the house rented by Jerry Dalogdog in an interior portion of Sitio Warwick Barracks, an area that had been hit by fires in the past.

Relatado said they received the alarm at 10:38 a.m. and raised the fire to Task Force Bravo, summoning all fire units in the towns and cities to create a perimeter around the flames.

The fire was controlled at 11:25 a.m. and completely put out at 4:58 p.m.

Strong winds gave the firefighters a hard time putting out the fire, Relatado said. The flames quickly spread to the structures made mostly of light materials.

Dalogdog was initially interviewed by the fire crew, but denied reports the fire started in his house, despite the statements of his neighbors.

“Wala kuno siya kahibawo kay natog siya atong tayma. Didto kuno sa pikas nga balay gikan (He said he was asleep and that he believed the fire started in another house),” Relatado said. Dalogdog will still be called by the fire department to discuss what happened.

6 injured

Reports of widespread illegal power connections will also be verified.

Six people were reported injured in the fire and were brought to the Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) and some private hospitals.

Antonia Sy, 72, suffered second-degree burns on her right arm while Mario Dela Cerna, 78, sustained cuts on his face after falling on the road.

Vedasta Condinan, 50, sustained burns on his left foot and Gina Mae Bahinan, 18, also got wounded.

Jobito Auman, 69, and his wife Nasing, 64, both sustained first-degree burns in their face and arms.

Sun.Star Cebu chanced upon the couple as they were being treated by the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (ERUF) on the sidewalk. They had initially treated their burns with toothpaste.

Nasing, in an interview, said it was the unbearable heat that prompted them to run for safety.

They were working in a bakery located across the block where the fire started. She’s a helper while her husband is a master baker.


Police evacuatees

Chief Inspector Noel Lomente, head of Carbon Police Station, said they evacuated their belongings when the fire threatened to reach them. The police station is situated across Sitio Warwick Barracks.

They took their computers, firearms and supplies to the barangay hall. They also escorted their two detainees to safety.

Lomente, when interviewed by reporters, said it was their station that immediately called the fire department.

Apart from them, teams from other police stations were deployed to cordon the area.

While roving the fire scene, the police apprehended a man for allegedly taking wires and iron sheets from a burned house.

“There are many who take advantage, especially when the homeowners are away,” Lomente said.

Ermita barangay captain Felicisimo Rupinta said he and council members declared the barangay on Saturday under a state of calamity. They plan to use P100,000, for starters, “kay layo pa kaayo ang December, basin naa pay laing mahitabo (because December is still a long way off and we may have to address other events),” he told Sun.Star Cebu.

Solutions

The affected families will be temporarily housed in the barangay’s sports complex.

Rupinta will attend a crisis management meeting on Monday in Cebu City Hall and present his suggestions on what to do to make Sitio Warwick Barracks safer.

“Kapila naman gud na maigoan ug sunog diha. Dili lalim ang pagpatukod ug balay ug tindahan baya (We have been hit by fire so many times. It’s not easy rebuilding homes and stores),” Rupinta said.

Mayor Michael Rama asked City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) to attend to the survivors’ immediate needs. He visited the families on Saturday in the Ermita Sports Complex, their evacuation center.

Food packs were already distributed to the survivors, whose meals for three days the City will provide.

A task force composed of DSWS, Department of Public Services, police and barangay workers, among others, was formed by Rama to speed up the City’s help.

“We will discuss what the City will do since the area is supposed to be commercial but was utilized as residential by some,” Rama said in an interview.

Freedom Park

The mayor also asked the Prevention Restoration Order Beautification and Enhancement (Probe) chief, Raquel Arce, to address the problems of the vendors affected by the fire.

Rama said he will let Arce determine if the affected vendors can use a portion of Freedom Park. He also wanted the City’s heavy equipment to be deployed in the fire scene to clear the area immediately.

For market vendor Josefina Jaime, 61, survival was a gift from Señor Sto. Niño, whose feast the city will celebrate next weekend.

“Binirthdayhan niya nako (Survival is His birthday gift to me),” she said. She will turn a year older on January 14.

The image of Sto. Niño was the first thing she saved when the fire broke out. She has had the image for a long time and brought it to many processions.

“Isayawsayaw ni nako siya pirmi (I dance with the Niño often),” Jaime said. “Kabawo ko, makabarog ra ta tanan ani ug balik (I know we will get back on our feet again).” (With Razel V. Cuizon/Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 12, 2014.

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