MANILA, Philippines – “Boom! It was like a bomb had exploded,” said Benito Tinio Jr., a security guard, who was taken so much by surprise that he instinctively ducked by the motorcycle he had parked in front of the water-refilling station he worked for on Wilson Street in San Juan City.
Aquasafe, which Tinio, 60, had been assigned to watch from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., sits right across the street from a two-story building from where the blast emanated past 1 a.m. Saturday, injuring seven people, including himself.
The explosion was “so strong” the motorcycle he had used as cover fell on its side, and glass panes of some establishments were shattered.
The authorities said several vehicles nearby were damaged, including a green multicab that lost part of its and was pushed backward by the force of the blast.
“The blast was so strong, I thought I was going to die,” Tinio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
According to initial police reports, four establishments on ground floor of the building, which bore no name, were damaged by the explosion, but Chief Supt. Miguel Laurel, Eastern Police District director, said later there were only three establishments. These were Mañosa noodle house, a laundry shop, and GV Guide Hair Salon.
Senior Superintendent Joselito Daniel, San Juan chief of police, said the walls on the second floor of the building, which houses other offices, suffered cracks.
Apart from Tinio, who sustained minor injuries on the face, arms and legs, three other people who were nearby also suffered “minor injuries,” Laurel said. All four were taken to the San Juan medical Center, Laurel said.
He identified the three others as pizza delivery boys Marlo Urdas, 40, and Reynaldo Namura, 30; and taxi driver Gabriel Padilla, 45.
Padilla had just dropped off a passenger near P. Guevarra Street and was making a U-turn when the explosion occurred.
As of 9 a.m., his taxi could be seen in the middle of the street with shattered glass around it. The vehicle was removed around 11 a.m.
Three other persons who Laurel said were inside some of the damaged establishments were also injured and had to be rushed to Cardinal Santos Medical Center. They were identified as Allan Cabana Mauriel, 46; Julius Ras, 27; and Jaime Arvin Tacdoro, 22.
Laurel said two of the three were fixing a pipeline, and the other was sleeping in the laundry shop.
Laurel said Tacdoro, who remains “under observation,” had the most severe injuries, which included burns on the face. The Inquirer learned that Tacdoro was later transferred to the Quirino Hospital.
The authorities were still trying to determine what caused the explosion and where exactly it took place but Laurel told reporters there “were indications” that it was gas-related.
He said members of the explosives and ordnance unit smelled something “masangsang” (acrid) when they scoured the area after the blast, adding no crater was found in the area.
He added, however, that it would still be the police crime lab that would declare whether there were traces of explosives in the area.
“We have to wait for the results of the swabbing by the SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives),” he said.
He said the swabbing of items at the blast site was needed to determine whether there was any explosive residue.
A section of Wilson Street that wos closed to motorists after the blast, was opened before noon Saturday.
The blast site was visited by Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas around 4 a.m.