By the time the island inferno was over, at least a hundred people had to be picked up from waters thick with ash and debris.
Such was the magnitude of the blaze and the panic that engulfed parts of Isla Puting Bato, one of Manila’s shantytowns in Tondo facing Manila Bay.
Arson investigators are tracking down the owner of the shanty believed to be source of Friday’s fire that destroyed the slum community and left some 5,400 people homeless.
Manila fire marshall Supt. Felix Abrenica said they would question Arturo Salapudin, who lived in Block 1, Purok I of Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, to determine the cause of the blaze which required a response not only from firefighters but also from the Coast Guard.
Abrenica said at least five persons were injured, including a fireman, Senior Insp. Reggie Olmedo; resident Joel Bumaray; a 2-year-old child and two teenagers.
Investigation showed that the fire started from Salapudin’s home at around 4:10 p.m., spread across Purok I, and lasted till around 11 p.m.
Teams from the Philippine Coast Guard had to be called in after some residents jumped into the waters of Manila Bay or boarded makeshift rafts to escape the flames.
The PCG yesterday said it had rescued at least 100 people from the water.
The estimated 2,000 families displaced by the fire were temporarily sheltered at Del Pan Sports Complex, where Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and other city officials distributed relief goods yesterday.
Lim said a relocation site awaits the homeless families in Barrio Gayagaya in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan province. With a report from Philip Tubeza