State of calamity declared; over 5,000 homeless

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014


CEBU -- Councilors declared a state of calamity in eight sitios of Barangay Lorega, Cebu City on Wednesday to speed up aid for nearly 5,400 persons who are now homeless as a result of last Tuesday’s fire.

Firefighters spent nine hours putting out the flames, which gutted at least 500 houses and took away P2.5 million worth of properties, according to the Cebu City Fire Department’s estimate.

Apart from the City Council’s declaration, Mayor Michael Rama also created Task Force Lorega to address the needs of some 1,300 families displaced by the fire.

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“We assure you that you can go back to your respective places,” Rama told the survivors. But first, he said, the area must be re-blocked to widen the roads and make it easier to reach interior portions during emergencies.

The roads were so narrow that, according to SFO2 Daniel Relatado of the Cebu City Fire Department, the firefighters had to connect at least 10 hoses, measuring 50 feet each, just to train some water on the flames in the interior areas.

Firefighters received the call for help at 4:47 p.m. Tuesday and had the fire under control, meaning it could no longer spread, at 7:26 p.m.

But it wasn’t officially declared out until 2:24 a.m. Wednesday.

Temporary shelter

Most of the survivors spent Tuesday night and Wednesday on Imus Road, under tents lent by City Hall.

Rama reminded the families to transfer to the designated evacuation centers, which include gymnasiums in Sacred Heart, Zapatera, T. Padilla and Day-as.

Imus Road remained closed to vehicles on Wednesday, but City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) Chief Rafael Christopher Yap said the City plans to reopen half of it on Thursday.

Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW) Chief Jose Marie Poblete will head Task Force Lorega and oversee the City’s responses.

The calamity declaration also covers Barangays Bulacao, Ermita and Mabolo, where fires also recently broke out.

In Lorega, the affected sitios are Kamansi, Serias, Itum Yuta, San Roque, Lawis and Laguna, Laray and Quadrangle.

Rama tasked Poblete and City Administrator Lucelle Mercado to look into the status of the lots. He has heard that some lots in the area are City-owned, while others are either Province-owned or belong to private individuals.

Lorega fire aftermath

AFTER THE FIRE, STREET LIFE. Survivors take shelter under tents arranged in one lane of Imus Road in Barangay Lorega, Cebu City, while others search the ruins of some 500 houses to see if there was anything they could save after Tuesday’s fire. A camera mounted on a quadcopter shows how far into the community the flames spread. (Kim Yuhico/Sunnex)

Numbers check

A team from City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWS) will visit the fire scene on Thursday to verify the number of affected families and reconcile their figures with that of the Bureau of Fire Protection.

DSWS chief Ester Concha said she expected the number of affected families and structures to increase.

According to SFO2 Relatado of the fire department, the fire reportedly started in Sitio Kamansi, where witnesses recalled hearing an explosion inside one house.

“We will summon the homeowner and the witnesses for us to verify this further,” said Relatado in a phone interview.

No one died in Tuesday’s fire.

But the fire department listed five injured civilians: Raymond Ceniza, 55, who had a laceration on his foot; Cheska Taneo, 15, also wounded in her feet; and Tifanny Caneston, Marlon Pacquia, Arnulfo Sanico, who also suffered lacerations.

Meanwhile, the Metro Cebu Water District (MCWD) clarified there was ample water supply and pressure when the fire struck Barangay Lorega last Tuesday afternoon.

Enough pressure

Engr. Ernie Delco, MCWD assistant general manager for operations, said that MCWD diverted water supply from the southern portion of Cebu City to Imus Road, in order to help firefighters.

Delco said that the water pressure during the fire reached 20 PSI (pounds per square inch), enough for the water to reach a three-story building.

“No, we didn’t lack water; it’s normal na mahurot ang tubig tungod sa kakusog sa kalayo (it’s normal to run out of water in a fire that big),” Relatado, the fire investigator, also said.

But he confirmed it was difficult to refill their fire trucks quickly.

Delco said it takes time to fill a water truck, which can hold 5,000 to 10,000 liters of water, as firefighters need to pump the hydrants before these can produce water.

The fire also occurred at a time when consumption of water in Metro Cebu reaches its peak, he said.

Panicked

He added that some of their stubbed-out water pipes in Lorega were dislodged by some panic-stricken residents, who tried to help stop the fire. This also affected the supply of MCWD’s hydrants in the area.

Lorega has about 16 hydrants in Barangay Lorega, the MCWD official said.

Two other fires broke out in Cebu last Tuesday afternoon.

A fire that began at 2:55 p.m. in Barangay Casuntingan, Mandaue City hit three surplus car shops and a restaurant.

A little more than an hour before that, at 1:30 p.m. in Barangay Cantabaco, Toledo City, another fire destroyed one house and damaged another.

The house of Analie Villanueva, 35, burned to the ground while that of Nericto Cansana was damaged.

According to Senior Insp. Allan Patrocinio of the Toledo City Fire Station, the fire may be traceable to faulty electrical wiring.

The first-alarm fire was placed under control after 15 minutes, but damaged an estimated P25,000 worth of property. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 20, 2014.

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