A day after a big fire swept through two blocks of barangay Suba, Cebu City, urban poor residents set up tents at the site or evacuated to a sports complex.
They look forward to rebuilding their homes.
Barangay captain Rogelio Resurreccion said there was no problem about moving back since the land was already awarded to the occupants long time ago under the Slum Improvement Resettlement (SIR) project.
Mayor Michael Rama said City Hall was ready to distribute relief aid but he temporarily set aside the release of housing materials until the fire area is reblocked to open emergency access roads.
He also ordered a three-meter easement established on the sides of a nearby creek first.
Resurrecion said he thinks reblocking was unnecessary because interior roads followed the standard size.
But he said he can’t prevent the mayor from doing it.
Social workers listed at least 2,000 people displaced by the fire, which broke out before 7 a.m. on a Friday.
It affected about 150 of the 206 structures in blocks I and II in barangay Suba.
The number of victims may be less after verification to rule out double listing by people who just want to avail of free meals, said Cathy Yso, head of the Department of Social Welfare Services.
Packed meals were distributed starting Friday lunch and will continue for three days.
Rep. Tomas Osmeña, south district congressman of Cebu City, said he would release P10,000 for each family whose house was destroyed.
The Suba barangay council declared a state of calamity on Friday night during a special session so it can tap a P249,000 calamity fund to help fire victims, who number 2,180 individuals.
But the amount “is not enough,” said the barangay captain, who added that they need help from the city government and private sector.
He said the fire destroyed 148 houses and left 457 families homeless.
Resurrection said the fund will be used to buy necessities but will wait to see what City Hall will give, like kitchen utensils and housing materials, to avoid duplication.
Some kind-hearted persons delivered relief goods to the barangay hall. Donations in kind and cash are being accepted there.
Fire victims are temporarily housed at the barangay sports complex and fish port, or in tents near their burned houses.
Barangay Suba used four of its 35 fire extinguishers to put out sparks from live wires that got detached from electric posts as a result of Friday’s fire.
The city-purchased equipment was “very useful” in the post-fire operation.
But it wasn’t used to battle the flames that razed houses in Block 1 and 2, said Resurrection.
The barangay’s mini-firetruck was the first to respond to the fire alarm. It ran out of water.
The Cebu city government had bought 6,000 fire extinguishers worth P10.8 million for distribution to the city’s 80 barangays to hasten disaster response.
They were to be distributed to schools, police stations, barangay halls and different sitios.
Suba last year received its share of 35 units, which were distributed to sitios and chapels, said Resurrection.
Each barangay councilor was also given one each. Resurrection said these were “very useful” in dousing fires before they got bigger.
Last Wednesday, the City Council authorized the donation of 50 units to the adjacent barangay of Ermita.
In the March 9 fire in Suba, the Visayan Electric Co. wasn’t able to immediately switch off power supply in the area. Sparks from electric wires in the fire site traveled about 100 meters to nearby Abellana Street, according to Resurrection.
Some bundled overhead wires were cut off from the main line and were left hanging on the street.
“Ug wala pa to ang fire extinguishers basin naa say laing sunog sa akong barangay atong panahona (If not for the fire extinguishers, another fire could have developed in the barangay),” he said.
But it was too late to use the devices to battle the main fire in Blocks I and II, he said.
“Daku na ang kayo pagkahibaw sa mga tawo nga naay sunog. Dili na madala ug fire extinguishers (The fire was already big when people started to notice it. The fire extinguishers were no match for the fire),” he said.