Gov't vows to help OFWs hurt in Riyadh blast

From a report by Henry Omaga Diaz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2012 09:05 PM | Updated as of Nov 03 2012 08:19 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The government promises to assist Filipino workers injured in Thursday's blast in Riyadh as well as the family of the lone Filipino fatality, identified as Florentino Santiago.

Santiago was among the 22 people killed in Thursday's fuel tanker blast in Riyadh.

He was sleeping inside a truck parked nearby at the time of the explosion.

“Nakausap ko pa ‘yung dalawa, nagtitimpla raw sila ng kape at tinawag pa raw nila [si Florentino] at sinabing, ‘Bumaba ka diyan, mag-kape tayo kasi paliwanag na nga ‘yung araw.’ Sinabihan daw sila na, ‘Hindi, matutulog muna ako,’” said Jojo Custodio, one of the overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who witnessed the explosion.

Santiago’s wife, Jocelyn is devastated. She talked to him just a few days ago.

Santiago had been a truck driver in Saudi Arabia for five years and the last time they saw each other was in April.

“Pinagbilin niya sa akin lahat, inayos niya ‘yung mga papel-papel, na dati ay hindi naman niya ginagawa. Nilagay niya sa isang envelope tapos noong paalis na, yumakap na siya sa akin nang mahigpit at hinalikan niya ako tapos maya-maya bumalik siya at yumakap na naman siya,” said Jocelyn.

The Santiago family lost the breadwinner, but government said it will help them pick up the pieces.

“Makakatanggap ng death benefits, na nakakahalaga ng P220,000 at isa sa dalawang anak niya ay makaka-avail ng scholarship grant at bibigyan din natin ng pang-hanapbuhay ang kanyang wife,” said Carmelita Dizon, chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, also promises to bring Santiago’s body back home as soon as possible.

The accident in Riyadh also left more than a hundred people injured.

Ten of them are Filipinos and one remains in critical condition.

"All the rest had slight or not too serious injuries like forearm fracture, bleeding ear, and some wounds on the face and head injuries,” said Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez. -- ANC