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17 killed in Butuan City fire

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Firefighters battle an early morning blaze gutting a building in Butuan City Wednesday. Video by citizen journalist Manuel Pangan


BUTUAN CITY, Philippines—An inferno at a three-story garment store in this southern Philippine city before dawn Wednesday killed 17 employees, most of whom were women who were asleep and trapped on the top floor, officials said.

The number of casualties was previously placed at 13 but police scouring the gutted building along Montilla Boulevard found four more bodies, Superintendent Martin Gamba, Caraga police spokesman, said.

The blaze, which started shortly before 4 a.m., reached the general alarm before it was put out at 6:15 a.m., said Gamba.

Store employee Mylene Tulo, who escaped with two co-workers, said she was roused from sleep as the fire spread rapidly in the third-floor office where they slept. Amid the inferno and yells for help, she managed to dash out with her colleagues. They sustained minor burns on their arms.

“We wanted to rouse others from sleep, but the fire was already too strong,” a stunned Tulo said.

At least 20 employees, mostly women, were sleeping at the store when the fire broke out, said city police chief Pedro Obaldo.

Earlier reports meanwhile said that six other stay-in store staff remained missing as of posting time, nearly six hours after the fire.

Further investigation was still being conducted to determine the cause and origin of the fire, he said.

He said the building, previously a theatre before being turned into a commercial center, was being rented by ready to wear retail store Novo Jeans and Shirts, Western Union, Smart Wireless, Globe, and St. Peters.

Many stores in the Philippines allow their employees to sleep over, especially those with faraway homes.

Firefighters battle an early morning blaze at a garment store in Butuan City Wednesday. AP

Relatives and friends, most of them in shock and tears, gathered in search of loved ones in front of the building, where police stood before body bags with the victims’ remains.

Obaldo said investigators were trying to determine what sparked the fire and if the owners violated fire regulations.

A lack of firefighting equipment and personnel coupled with safety violations has resulted in major fire disasters in the Philippines, especially in shantytowns. A 1995 inferno that gutted the Ozone Disco Pub in Quezon City, the capital, killed 162 people.

Butuan is a city of more than 300,000 about 790 kilometers (500 miles) southeast of Manila.


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Tags: Butuan , Butuan City , Fire , Philippines , Phlippines , Police


  • JUSTDOURJOB

    GOD HELP THOSE POOR PEOPLE WHO DIED. NOW THIS SHOULD BE A WAKE UP CALL TO THE PEOPLE OF BUTUAN, GET THE BUILDINGS TO OPEN THERE FIRE EXITS, GET THE FIRE DEPARTMENT TO DO THERE JOB AND INSPECT THESE BUILDINGS. HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE MUST DIE BEFORE THE GOVERNMENT DOES THERE JOB. IS YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER NEXT TO DIE IN A PREVENTABLE FIRE?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YQNAQMUXSGDOFJVGS5CF4QBLEM Arlie Marie Santua

    Fire exits. When can people learn? RIP to those who died. :(

  • Aljon Ampo

    3 lang po ang naka escape, hindi po 7….

  • http://twitter.com/lisenriquez lisa enriquez rafols

    No matter what, the manager has no right to lock his employees inside the store.

    • junza

      sorry I did not notice the part that says the owner locked up his employees..?

      in contrast I’ve noticed this part:
      “Many stores in the Philippines allow their employees to sleep over, especially those with faraway homes.”

      please point me to where it says owner locked up his employees…

      • KaMahALaN20

        http://www.pia.gov.ph/news/index.php?article=1711336534215

        that’s the link… read it and u will see the paragraph below:

        Junel Albuelo, store guard on duty, said stay-in personnel of NOVO store
        were staying on the third floor where the fire allegedly started. He
        said he heard an explosion coming from the store after which he observed
        thick smoke seeping under the door.He also said the store’s main gate
        had two padlocks: from within and outside. Albuelo also confirmed that
        21 personnel were staying inside the establishment last night.

      • junza

         Thanks for the link

  • antonioluna

    ito ay isang maliwanag na kapabayaan sa mga city engineers na dapat maginspection para matupad ang tamang pagpapatayo ng isang building, lumalabas na walang tamang fire exit ang building na ito na naging dahilan ng pagkasayang ng maraming buhay, dapat parusahan at bitayin ang may ari ng negosyo na ito kasama ang mga city engineers

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/XEE44M6KHT4RU4ZHLVIJ3HGXIE Margie

      wla po kaung dpat si2hin its an accident

      • antonioluna

        walang dapat sisihin kung hindi nasusunod ang building code?walang fire safety?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_VDMUJ6NKKCLWRMVMJRLJFI633I Rene V

    butuan city is a small city whose officials dream to be progressive but then the fire inspectors and other safety people are not that  in sync with their superiors …. and so the fire. the firemen were doing the jobs that the fire inspectors failed to act on. SO WHAT”S UP?

  • EVILCOUPLE

    kawawa naman

  • PrudenceConnor

    This same thing happened in 1980s when Fairmart Fire caused death of more than 10 people including the 3 kids of the owner.  They padlocked the door from outside the store, and all the windows have grills. I hope this is not the reason of why there’s a lot of people who died.  Also, there should be fire drills which the City has to observe with the businesses.



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