Cause of Serendra Explosion still unknown–Roxas
MANILA, Philippines—Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said Saturday that police and fire authorities were still trying to determine what caused the explosion at Two Serendra on Friday night that killed three people and injured five others.
“Building B will remain a crime scene until the police SOCO (Scene of the Crime Operatives) and other experts, including the Bureau of Fire Protection, have determined the cause of the explosion,” Roxas, speaking in Filipino, said at a press conference.
Roxas said the investigation would be “scientific” and appealed to the public not to speculate on what caused the explosion that ripped through parts of the upscale Serendra complex, which houses shops and a number of restaurants.
Giving details gathered in the initial investigation, Roxas said, “I am just saying the factual findings.”
Roxas said President Aquino, who inspected the blast site Friday night, wanted an “unassailable report” on the incident.
“The prevailing principle here is the safety of everyone, of the residents. Secondly, we want to ensure, as the President has firmly instructed, that we should determine what really happened. We are using science and the knowledge of the different government agencies, including the Army’s explosives unit, for us to find out what happened and take steps to prevent this from happening again,” Roxas said.
“As of now, we still cannot say what caused this explosion. We are checking all the forensic evidence of the Bureau of Fire Protection, the SOCO of the Philippine National Police, etcetera,” Roxas added.
Roxas said that investigators conducted a “paneling” of the blast site, where bomb sniffing dogs from the police and military bomb units combed through the area to look for explosive residue or scent. However, the dogs gave no “positive indication” that a bomb caused the explosion, Roxas added.
“It was significant but insufficient.… That does not mean we are ruling out this angle…. All angles are still being looked into,” Roxas said.
A few meters behind Roxas was the shambles of Unit 501 B, where the blast took place at around 8 pm on Friday night, and the building it was part of, which he described as now an “inert building” after all the utilities had been cut off while the investigation was ongoing.
Roxas was joined at the briefing by Tony Aquino, president of Ayala Land Inc., PNP Director General Alan Purisima, National Capital Region Police Office Director Leonardo Espina, Taguig City Mayor Lani Cayetano, and Bureau of Fire Protection head, Chief Supt. Carlito Romero.
Roxas identified the fatalities as Jeffrey Umali, Salimar Natividad, and Marlon Bandiola.
The five injured were Angelito San Juan, the occupant of Unit 501 B, Allen Poole, an American citizen, nine-year-old Louise Lorenzo, Janice Nicole Bondoc, and April Joy Garcia.
Roxas said San Juan suffered burns on his back, as he was reportedly on his way out when the explosion occurred. San Juan was in stable condition on Saturday but remained at the Intensive Care Unit of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City.
San Juan was renting the unit from May 31 to June 9 from the owner, who was identified only as a Mr. Gaiton.
Poole was hit by shattered glass and remained in the hospital, Roxas said. Lorenzo and Bondoc sustained minor injuries and have been discharged. Garcia was said to be traumatized but was also discharged at midnight Friday, Roxas said.
Roxas condoled with the families of the fatalities, who he noted had left their homes and the loved ones on Friday morning to work and earn their keep only to be “unluckily” passing along the road when the blast occurred.
Natividad was driving a delivery van accompanied by Umali and Bandiola when a slab of concrete wall blown off by the blast landed on the vehicle and crushed the three men to death. The delivery van slammed into a Starex van driven by one Orlando Agravante, who was not injured.
Roxas also clarified a report released by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) that the death toll from the blast had climbed to six.
NDRRMC head Eduardo del Rosario apologized for the mistake, saying it was the result of a double count.
Roxas said that San Juan had complained to the building administrator that it was hot inside the apartment despite having the airconditioning on.
“There was a report that Mr. San Juan, the occupant, had complained that it was hot or it was suffocating so he called up the administrator where the apartment is,” Roxas said.
Roxas said investigators were interviewing the victims and witnesses to establish the “sequence of events.” Ayala Land has also submitted the CCTV records to allow investigators to establish a “narrative time line,” he added.
According to Roxas, initial investigation showed that Unit 506 on the same floor had a used fire extinguisher, but it has not yet been established if this was used before the explosion, if it was “contributory to the explosion,” or was used after the explosion.
One floor below the blast site, Unit 306—Serendra does not have a designated fourth floor — had “indications of burn marks.”
“Again, investigators are studying the fire trail. Experts are looking into the sequence of events that led to the explosion at Unit 501,” Roxa said, adding experts were “calculating” the force of the explosion that scattered debris all over the area.
Police cordoned off the McKinley Parkway Road and a huge portion of the parking lot of Market! Market!, the mall adjacent to the Serendra Condominiums, where shattered glass littered the pavement.
The explosion was apparently so powerful that even the glass door of a bank some 100 meters away from Two Serendra cracked.
Nearby, SOCO investigators wearing white overalls and blue rubber sandals were seen at the rotunda of the main entrance of Market! Market! scouring through debris from the blast site.
Ayala Land Corp. president Tony Aquino said around 35 of the 200 units of Two Serendra were occupied at the time of the blast.
All the residents have been evacuated and will not be allowed to return until authorities have established that it was structurally safe to do so, Roxas said.
He also warned weekend visitors to Bonifacio Global City that traffic would be heavy in the McKinley Parkway Road area but business operations would go on normally at the rest of Serendra, Bonifacio High Street, Global City, and SM Aura.
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