8 dead, thousands homeless in Manila fires
MANILA, Philippines – Eight people were killed and thousands left homeless as two fires struck the Philippine capital on Christmas Day, with one of the blazes sparking a riot in a slum, officials said.
Seven charred bodies, all believed to be from one household, were recovered after a blaze razed a row of old apartments in northern Manila at dawn, fire officer Francisco Mabunga told AFP.
The cause of the blaze, which broke out as the metropolis of 14 million people held Christmas Eve parties that lasted until dawn Tuesday, is under investigation, officials said.
“They are all believed to be from a family that owned the apartment row and lived in one of the units where the fire was suspected to have started,” Mabunga added.
A second blaze broke out at a sprawling shantytown, sparking riots that left one man dead and lead to two suspected rioters being arrested, said Manila fire marshal Santiago Laguna.
“They (residents) started grabbing hoses from our firefighters, who could not do anything as they feared for their own safety,” Laguna said in a radio interview.
He said a man was beaten up and later died from his injuries in the melee as the blaze consumed the shantytown in the San Juan district. Arson is believed to be the cause of the blaze.
Laguna said residents were apparently angered by the delayed arrival of firefighters. He said the emergency workers could not get their fire trucks through narrow streets jammed with parked vehicles.
Volunteer firefighter Willy Tiongson, his bloodied head wrapped in a bandage, told GMA television that his team was met with a shower of rocks and other projectiles as they drove into the slum.
The shantytown blaze left some 2,000 families homeless, Laguna said, adding that equated to around 8,000 people without a roof over their heads at Christmas.
An AFP photographer on the scene saw hundreds of people left homeless huddled on the floor of two basketball courts nearby.