CEBU CITY -- Three children aged 6, 4, and 2 died while two of their relatives were hurt in a fire that destroyed their home in St. Martin Village, Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City at past 9 p.m. Thursday.

Although investigators are still determining what caused the fire, initial information indicates it may have started with the kerosene lamp the family used, since they have not been able to pay for their electricity bill for almost a year.

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Fire Officer 3 Cipriano Codilla said the bodies of Mark Punzal, 6, and his siblings Joey, 4, and Gideon, 2, were brought to the Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes.

FO2 Roy Garcia, one of the firefighters who retrieved the bodies after the flames had died, said Mark died while embracing his younger sibling Joey.

Only Gideon was separated from the two. He was believed to have been heading for the door.

The children's 52-year-old grandmother Wilmina Punzal and their three-year-old brother James were able to leave the house but suffered burns.

Wilmina reportedly tried to rescue the three other children but her neighbors prevented her from doing so because the fire already engulfed the house.

Codilla said the children's mother Eileen, 28, was reportedly inside a nearby Internet café when the fire broke out.

Eileen, who is jobless, is reportedly separated from her husband and lives with her children in her mother's house.

Mayor Jonas Cortes assured to give cash assistance to the victims.

Mandaue City Social Welfare Officer Violeta Cavada said they are also looking after Wilmina and James.

The mayor felt sorry for the family upon learning that they had to use a kerosene lamp since they did not have any power supply.

Codilla said it took firefighters two minutes to control the fire that destroyed P70,000 worth of property.

Fortunately, he said, the rain prevented the fire from growing bigger and spreading to neighboring houses.

Codilla said a helper who started working for a neighbor of the Punzals in March last year said the family did not have electricity since then.

As a standard procedure, Codilla said the Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operatives are still examining the bodies of the three children to confirm that there was no foul play. (OCP/Sun.Star Cebu)