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Davao City vows help to families of mall fire victims

/ 05:25 PM December 25, 2017

DAVAO CITY—The city government has pledged to extend assistance to the families of the 37 victims of the massive fire that gutted a major shopping mall here as rescuers continued their search to find and recover the bodies of call center workers still missing and believed killed in the day-long blaze.

Forensic teams from police and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have taken samples from relatives of those missing for DNA testing in the hope of identifying the charred body of a person that rescuers recovered inside the burned shopping mall early on Sunday.

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Mayor Sara Duterte said the priority now was to find and recover soonest the remaining 36 victims trapped inside the New City Commercial Center (NCCC) Mall of Davao.

“I emphasized to them not to stop until you find the 37,” the mayor and presidential daughter said.

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On Monday, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the NBI to file charges against those who would be found liable for the tragedy.

Mayor Duterte said questions about filing of cases would depend on the report of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

“There’s no timeline for the BFP report as these are things that should not be rushed,” she said, as she urged the public not to speculate.

“Negative comments are not helpful right now,” Mayor Duterte said.

Research Now SSI, the global parent of Survey Sampling International (SSI) Davao, confirmed on Sunday the loss of its employees to the blaze and vowed to provide assistance to the victims’ families.

“This tragedy has left us with heavy hearts. We offer our condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of the victims,” Gary S. Laben, CEO of the American firm said in a statement. “Words cannot
express how saddened we are. We are grateful for the courageous response of the first responders and others who rushed to the scene,” Laben said.

Apart from counseling for its employees, the US firm also pledged to support funeral arrangements and create a fund for contribution to extend further assistance to the victims’ relatives.

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Authorities have designated a room at the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) as holding area for victims’ relatives as 37 beds were readied to receive and process recovered bodies.

The mayor has asked for understanding particularly from distraught relatives hungry for news “as it was not that easy to pull aside commanders on the ground for them to answer all questions.”

The city government was set to hold a Mass for the victims near the burned mall around 4 p.m. on Monday.

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TAGS: Bureau of Fire Protection, Call center, Fire, Gary S. Laben, National Bureau of Investigation, New City Commercial Center, Research Now SSI, Sarah Duterte
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