Firefighters in Metro Manila had their hands full on Thursday as they battled a big blaze which broke out in the central business district in Makati City, just a short distance away from one of the country’s top hospitals.
The flames were still raging in the slum area known as the Botanical Garden in Barangay Pio del Pilar when another fire was reported in the city, this time at a six-story building on Bagtikan Street in Barangay San Antonio.
The blaze at the Botanical Garden on Urban Avenue displaced around 1,000 families after 300 houses were destroyed.
Supt. Ricardo Perdigon, Makati fire marshal, said the fire started at 10:25 a.m. and reached the general alarm—the highest fire alarm status—after 20 minutes.
Fire trucks and firemen all over Metro Manila were immediately deployed to Makati to put out the flames to prevent these from spreading to the nearby Makati Medical Center (MMC).
A creek and a narrow street separate the hospital from the area where the blaze began.
The Agence France Presse (AFP) reported that the huge fire forced residents to make dramatic escapes.
“We were on the cot lying down, and then people started running. There was smoke everywhere, the place was up in flames,” said a tearful Anna Anciller, 27.
“We just ran. I lost everything,” she said as she clutched her six-year-old daughter and breast-fed her months-old baby boy.
Homes made of scrap wood and plastic sheets crumbled to the ground during the more than two-hour blaze as liquefied petroleum gas tanks exploded and fire truck sirens wailed.
The firemen walked on the roofs of homes not yet ablaze to get their hoses close to the flames, risking a deadly fall.
No one died but about one third of the 1,000 homes in the slum area were destroyed, Perdigon reported.
An arson investigator said the blaze was most likely caused by a faulty power outlet.
Hospital evacuation averted
Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, who went to the area when he heard about the incident, told reporters that he had spoken to MMC officials who expressed readiness to evacuate should the fire spread.
“But there was no need for Makati Med to evacuate their patients and staff since the fire was immediately controlled in an hour,” he later said. The fire was put out at 12:59 p.m.
Binay said the Botanical Garden got its name because it used to be a place where ornamental plants were sold.
“It is owned by the National Power Corp. and is part of its [transmission] line. Back in the ’70s and ’80s, Napocor allowed people to use the place to sell assorted plants,” he added. In the 1990s, informal settlers slowly took over the area.
Binay assured the displaced residents that the government would provide them with financial assistance and look for temporary shelters for them.
“But in the long-term, we want to relocate them to a safer place. You can see they are living along a creek, a danger zone,” he said.
The mayor could not provide details about the relocation since the National Housing Authority and city government have yet to arrange a meeting with residents.
Meanwhile, another fire gutted the six-story Guadalupe Building on Bagtikan Street. It was put out nearly two hours later at 1:25 p.m.
“The one in Bagtikan was more difficult for our firefighters since it was a structural fire. Our rescue teams had to rappel from an adjacent building to the penthouse of the building on fire to save three people trapped inside,” Binay told reporters.
“We experienced five fires this week. We want the people to be more vigilant,” he added. With an AFP report