Caloocan mayor recommends shutdown of burnt mall
Saying the structure has been weakened by a fire that raged for 82 hours before it was put out, the Caloocan City government has pushed for the closure of Ever Gotesco Grand Central Mall on Rizal Avenue.
In a statement issued Sunday, Mayor Enrico Echiverri said he had formed a team of experts that would submit a formal recommendation to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo in the next few days.
According to him, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) should declare the building as condemned.
“Investigators have seen cracks at the rear portion of the building. The movie house of the building [is leaning to one side] with some steel bars protruding [from the structure],” Jun Paclibar, the spokesman of the city government, said in a phone interview.
Nearby residents at risk
Paclibar said that people living in the vicinity of the five-story building would be in danger should it be allowed to reopen its doors to the public.
“We fear falling debris or, worse, the building’s collapse would cause some casualties in the area,” Paclibar said.
City building officials earlier asked the mall management, Gotesco Investments Inc. (GII), to put up nets around the structure to prevent accidents or injuries to passersby.
Last week, a team of investigators was created to probe the monster blaze that gutted 90 percent of the mall.
The team was composed of different agencies such as the DILG, Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation, Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and the Caloocan City government.
The fire broke out at 10:30 p.m. on March 16, starting in the ceiling of a shoe store on the first floor.
The flames spread quickly and reached Task Force Delta (the third to the last highest fire alarm level) before it was put out at 7:25 a.m. on March 20.
17 firemen injured
No deaths were reported as a result of the blaze although 17 members of the BFP and from volunteer fire brigades suffered injuries.
Reports about mall security guards barring firefighters from entering the establishment in the first few hours of the blaze had raised suspicions that the fire was set deliberately.
Earlier, Echiverri said the fire could be the mall management’s way of avoiding paying the debt it owes the city government.
In 2009, he claimed that GII failed to pay 23 years’ worth of real property taxes amounting to P722.3 million, which was reason enough for the city government to take over the mall.
The takeover, however, was aborted and the case remains pending in court.
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