Fires hit shanty areas in Malabon, Caloocan; 1 dead, 10 injured
A man was killed, 10 people were injured while a woman remained missing after two huge fires broke out in the cities of Malabon and Caloocan over the weekend.
A blaze engulfed a densely-packed community of 200 shanty houses in Malabon City early on Monday morning, just as firefighters managed to put the fire in Caloocan under control.
Authorities continued to look for Elizabeth Villega, 40, who was last seen jumping out the window of her house during the fire which started in the house of Nilo Marquez on Pilapil Palmario Street in Barangay Tonsuya, Malabon around 12:30 a.m Monday, case investigator FO1 Modesto Despi said.
On the other hand, six people were injured while trying to escape the blaze. Domingo Valdevieso, 67; his wife, Virginia, 66; and their son, Janno Chris, 22, all sustained second-degree burns in various parts of their body. On the other hand, Antonio Sidayon, 76, suffered a blister in his leg while Severino Tremposa, 70, sustained minor burns. A 19-year-old identified as Rincy Marquez was also treated for burns after he accidentally stepped on a live wire.
About an hour after the blaze, firefighters raised the alarm level to Task Force Charlie which requires about 30 fire trucks to respond to the incident.
The flames spread quickly to around 200 houses in the area, all made of light materials. The fire was eventually extinguished just after 5 a.m.
About 1,000 families were left homeless while damage to property was estimated at P3 million. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire.
The city government has already sent aid to the victims on top of a promise to provide housing for them.
“Actually, these victims who live near the Tonsuya-Catmon creek are among those that the city government is looking to relocate as part of the national government’s plan to relocate people living along waterways which are considered danger zones,” Bong Padua of the Malabon Public Information Office said in a telephone interview.
He added that the residents could be relocated to government housing in nearby Bulacan province.
“They are already lined up for relocation, but not for the in-city relocation sites, which we are offering and constructing for people living on the banks of the Tullahan River who are in a more dangerous area at the moment,” he said.
Meanwhile, residents of Barangay 120, Grace Park, Caloocan City were left stunned and reeling on Monday after a huge fire razed about 500 houses on Easter Sunday.
A man died while four others were injured in the blaze which broke out at the dense shanty community in BMBA Compound at the corner of Maria Clara Street and 2nd Avenue in Grace Park, Caloocan City, around 5:30 p.m.
A day after the fire, most of the 1,000 families who had lost their homes were staying at Bagong Silang Elementary School, St. Pancratius Parish in La Loma and the old Philippine Rabbit bus terminal on Rizal Avenue. Some, however, chose to stay on the the sidewalks near their burnt homes while others took refuge in hotels or their relatives’ houses.
It was clear, however, that the victims were still shocked at how fast the fire spread through their houses, most of which were also made of light materials.
“We were just stunned at how fast the fire spread. We didn’t have time to salvage any of our clothes, appliances, valuables and even our money,” Lanvin Casipit, 20, told the Inquirer.
Their house on Maria Clara Street which was built by her grandparents was one of the first to be razed by the fire.
The Caloocan Fire Department reported that the blaze started around 5:30 p.m. in the house of Jojo Esperida which was near that of Casipit.
Cause still undetermined
Victims claimed that the fire was caused by a short circuit but fire investigators have yet to determine how it started.
“We were at a birthday party in Bulacan when the fire broke out. We had a relative guarding the house who texted us about the fire. When we heard about it, we rushed home,” she said.
Although it took them just 15 minutes to get home, their house was already in flames when they arrived.
“Our relative just had enough time to gather our important documents which we kept in a safe place. Aside from that, we weren’t able to save anything. There have been many fires in our area in the past years but our house was spared. This time, it was not,” she said.
Casipit said they were still lucky to have saved anything at all; some of their neighbors lost everything.
“Our neighbors are also stressed and distraught right now because they weren’t able to salvage anything at all. All they were left with were the clothes they were wearing,” she said.
Task Force Delta
Just after an hour after the blaze started, firefighters raised the alarm to Task Force Delta which meant that at least 35 fire trucks were needed at the scene as they struggled to put it under control, according to investigator SFO1 Benedicto Tudla.
“The fire spread quickly through the neighborhood because many of the houses there were tightly packed, especially in the inner alleys. Firefighters had a hard time extinguishing it because the alleys leading inward were narrow and panicky civilians blocked the road with their belongings, hampering the responding team,” he said.
The blaze was declared under control at 11 p.m. and put out around 1 a.m. on Monday morning, during which the extent of the damage became clear to Casipit and other victims of the blaze.
“Our house and every area around it was totally burned down. And while we were shining our flashlights on the area affected, we saw our neighbor, already dead. He was supposedly drunk when the fire started and apparently had a heart attack. He was facing a wall, his hands resting on it, as if he were trying hard to escape,” Casipit said.
Investigators have yet to fully identify the victim who was around 40 years old and known only as “Ricky.” Four others were injured in the incident: Cristina Navarro, who suffered minor burns in her lower limbs; Allan Pineda, whose foot sustained a wound; and Barangay 120 Chairman Antonio Duran and Lea Chua who both had breathing problems.
Investigators estimated the damage caused by the fire at around P3 million. The Caloocan City government has pledged assistance to the victims and is considering building government-sponsored housing in the area affected by the fire which is reportedly owned by the Diocese of Kalookan.
But for Casipit, who is now in a hotel with her family, and the other victims, nothing could replace the value of their homes.
“That was where my grandparents died and where we grew up. Our families already have other homes, but we valued our home more because it was different,” she said. With Mark Ersan D. Ate, trainee