LOVE DAY FIRE

19 houses gone, 158 homeless in B. Rodriguez Street

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It was a forlorn Valentine’s Day for 43 families who lost their homes in a fire that struck a residential area near the Petron gas station in B. Rodriguez Street in Cebu City.

“The flames grew so quickly,” said Maria David, whose husband tried to use fire extinguishers to douse the flames that broke out about 10 a.m.

David said she saw the flames first coming out of the third floor house of her elder brother, Vicente.

She rushed to bring her children outside, not stopping to pack any belongings.

Three persons including a 66-year-old man were injured in the fire that destroyed 19 houses in barangay Capitol Site.

Fire investigator Emiliano Daño identified the victims as Marife David, Vicente’s daughter; Cuadra Xerxes, and Antonio Arateo, 66.

Marife suffered a 1st degree burn on her left arm, Xerxes had burns on his right foot and back. The elderly Arateo had injuries on both arms.

Sitio Sto. Niño where the fire took place was declared in a state of calamity during last night’s meeting of the Capitol Site barangay council under Manuel Guanzon, a prerequisite for the release of calamity aid.

A total of 19 houses were destroyed and two were partly damaged.

Social workers rushed to the area to distribute packed meals and tents.

Ester Concha, head of the Department of Social Welfare and Services, said they listed 158 homeless individuals.

Of this number 13 were house sharers, four were renters and four were lodgers. The sitio’s chapel was spared from damage.

The entire B. Rodriguez Street was closed to traffic to let firetrucks enter the area.

Guanzon said the burned lot was owned by the Cebu provincial government where occupants built their houses almost 30 years ago.

Families chose to take shelter in tents by the road instead of going to the sports complex farther away.

The fire was reported at 10:13 a.m. and was placed under control at 10:36 a.m., said Chief Inspector Willian Tacaldo, Cebu City fire marshal.

A general fire alarm was raised, sending all fire trucks in Cebu City to respond.

Glady’s Gatchalian, David’s neighbor, said her eight children were safe but the family was unable to save their belongings.

“I wasn’t able to carry out any clothes at all,” she said.

“I worry about where my children will sleep tonight,” said the Gatchalian, wife of a taxi driver.

Cebu City Mayor Mike Rama, who went to the fire scene, assured residents of relief aid, housing materials and P10,000 cash aid for those who lost their houses.

He said the site was congested but that it was not feasible to build an access road for lack of space.

The Rama administration’s policy is to open an access road after a fire strikes a thickly populated area in order to clear the burned area for easier access for fire trucks in future emergencies. /With Chief of Reporters Doris Bongcac

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