Hotel explosion kills 3, wounds 27 in Zamboanga

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Monday, November 28, 2011


ZAMBOANGA CITY (2nd update, 1:56 p.m.) -- A powerful blast killed at least three people and wounded 27 others in a budget hotel packed with wedding guests in the southern Philippines, officials said Monday.

The explosion, suspected to have been caused by a bomb, ignited a fire that gutted the two-storey Atilano Pension House in downtown Zamboanga City late Sunday.

The blast occurred around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, said Zamboanga City Police Director Edwin de Ocampo.

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The blast was so powerful it caused much of the second floor to collapse, blew off the hotel roof and shattered glass panes and windows from nearby buildings, Zamboanga city Mayor Celso Lobregat said.

Two of the wounded were in serious condition in a hospital, he said.

Zamboanga City, a predominantly Christian trading hub 540 miles (860 kilometers) south of Manila, is located in a volatile region long troubled by a decades-long Muslim insurgency, extortion gangs and kidnap for ransom syndicates.

The blast occurred in room 226 on the second floor of the hotel, instantly killing two people staying in two adjacent rooms, which were devastated by the blast. A third body was found Monday on the ground floor, pinned by the cement slabs that collapsed from above.

Initial investigation pointed to a bomb, Lobregat said, adding he has asked Zamboanga residents to stay calm.

"We should not show that we're panicking because that is what these troublemakers relish to see," Lobregat told The Associated Press by telephone. "We have good leads; we will get all of them."

Many of the victims were from a group of about 20 people, who occupied six of the hotel's 35 rooms for a wedding on Monday. The tragedy has forced the wedding to be postponed, he said.

City Health Officer Dr. Rodelin Agbulos said the wounded victims, who are from nearby Basilan and Zamboanga del Sur provinces, were rushed to the different hospitals in this city for treatment.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said among the victims is the wife and daughter of Claro Lanipa of PIA Pagadian City office.

Lanipa and his family and close relatives checked in at the budget hotel, as they were to attend his son's wedding Monday, according to the PIA.

Senior Inspector Cesar Memoracion said his local bomb squad recently informed the hotel owner to be on guard for a possible bomb attack, citing intelligence, which did not identify the source of the threat.

In January 2000, the hotel was rocked by a blast that killed three suspected Muslim militants assembling a bomb in a room, officials said. (AP/Bong Garcia/Sunnex)

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