Iloilo oil spill evacuees now housed in hotels
ILOILO CITY—From cramped and spartan rooms in evacuation centers, more than a thousand evacuees from areas affected by the oil spill in this city were transferred to air-conditioned hotel rooms starting Thursday evening.
About 336 families, or 1,240 individuals, from five evacuation centers were transferred to three hotels located in Mandurriao District here, namely, the District 21, the Diversion 21 and the Courtyard by Marriott Iloilo, according to Gabino Ramon Mejia, head of plant operations of AC Energy Philippines, which owned the power barge that caused the spill.
“We will provide them with air-conditioned rooms with toilets and television sets. We will also shoulder their food until they can return to their homes,” Mejia told the Inquirer.
The evacuees used to stay at classrooms of Barrio Obrero Elementary School, Barrio Obrero High School, Zone 1 gymnasium of Barrio Obrero, Jalandoni Memorial Elementary School and Technical Institute of Iloilo City.
They were forced to leave their homes after Power Barge 102, operated by the Ayala-owned AC Energy, leaked bunker fuel following an explosion that tore a large hole in its hull on July 3.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) station in Iloilo said 268,948 liters of bunker fuel leaked from the barge, affecting coastal villages in Iloilo City and neighboring areas.
The transfer of the evacuees to better facilities came after Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, on Thursday morning, criticized AC Energy, operator of the power barge, for failing to adequately provide for the needs of evacuees, warning that the city government will file criminal and administrative complaints against them.
Mejia said they had difficulty procuring folding beds and other needs of the evacuees due to limited suppliers amid the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
He said they opted to transfer the evacuees to the hotels to ensure that they would be taken care of and be comfortable.
NegligenceMejia, quoting the Iloilo City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said the earliest that the evacuees could return to their homes would be on Tuesday next week when the cleanup of oil residue is expected to be completed in some areas.
As of July 8, the PCG reported that 234,269 L of leaked bunker fuel had been collected.
The Bureau of Fire Protection in Western Visayas earlier said negligence might have led to the explosion, as the work that was undertaken at the barge, involving the use of an acetylene torch, was done in an air vent connected to one of the fuel tanks.
The oil spill has affected the adjoining coastal villages of Iloilo City, at least two towns of Iloilo province, and the nearby Guimaras Island.
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