Celebrating the coming of the New Year is the last thing on Wilfredo Dineros III’s mind.
Aside from losing a loved one, he and his family were among the more than 7,000 residents who were left homeless on Christmas Day in San Juan City after a blaze that reached the general alarm engulfed hundreds of shanties in Barangays St. Joseph and Isabelita.
“I have to figure out where we’re going to stay. [Celebrating the New Year] is not a priority as of now,” Dineros, whose father Wilfredo Jr. was among those killed in the monster blaze, told the Inquirer in an interview at the covered court of Barangay (village) St. Joseph.
His family and dozens others are temporarily seeking shelter in the area and in other evacuation centers in the city.
The San Juan City government, however, said it was planning a medium-rise housing project for the fire victims.
Mayor Guia Gomez said in a statement following a dialogue held last week with the affected residents that she would form a group that would thresh out the details for the program.
“We are going to form an Inter-Agency Task Force which will lay down all the plans, mechanics and programs to speed up the implementation of our in-city medium-rise housing not only for them but also for the other low-income families,” she added.
According to Gomez, work on developing the housing site—the former squatter colony on Marne Street in Barangay St. Joseph—will begin once the area is cleared.
“Once fire debris is cleared from the site, the land will be surveyed and subdivided according to whatever plan the task force will agree upon,” she said.
She also assured the affected families that safeguards would be built into the housing project to prevent another fire from breaking out or spiraling out of control.
“We will give emphasis to widened roads passable for fire trucks, ambulance and rescue teams; and proper electrical and water facilities to avoid similar tragedies in the future,” Gomez said.
Barangay St. Joseph residents would have a say in the planning of the housing project as Gomez told them to nominate three representatives to the inter-agency task force.
They will join officials of city and national government agencies such as the Housing and Urban Development Council, National Housing Authority, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Presidential Council for the Urban Poor and the Local Housing Board in planning the housing project.
The city government said a total of 1,585 families, or 7,492 individuals, lost their houses in the blaze.
“My mind is a mess right now. My family and I have nowhere to go,” Dineros, a native of Bicol, told the Inquirer.
He said that while he has accepted the fact that his family would be sleeping in an evacuation center for the New Year, he was hoping that this would not be for long.
He explained that the longer he, his wife, Ranilyn, and two sons stayed under the same roof as hundreds of families, the more prone they were to catching diseases.
“Isn’t that how it works? If you’re with a lot of people, it’s easier to catch a cold or something,” Dineros said.
“We can’t stay here forever. I’m thinking about my sons,” he said as he called on the local government to provide them with decent housing “real soon.”