MANILA, Philippines (7th UPDATE) – The fire at the Gotesco Grand Central Mall in Caloocan City that broke out starting Friday night is now under control, but firefighters have yet to declare a fire out.
At least 17 firefighters have been hurt in their efforts to contain the fire.
In an interview with ANC, Caloocan Mayor Recom Echiverri said they are still awaiting for firemen to clear some areas with thick smoke.
The fire was already declared under control by authorities around 11:50 p.m. Saturday, but it blazed anew and spread to the fourth floor of the building on Sunday morning.
The fourth floor contains the mall’s air conditioning and LPG tanks. The mall cinema is also located in this floor.
According to the fire fighters, their priority is to prevent the fire from spreading into the nearby buildings.
Meanwhile, Echiverri wants an investigation after reports came out that the fire went out of control because mall guards initially refused entry to firefighters.
Echiverri said he wants to know whether there is policy to be followed in instances like this so it may be prevented in the future.
“Yes that’s true. That was the report that I received... when the fire really razed, hindi na ma-control, I think there was no policy or direction as to when should the guards allow the firemen to come in. That’s why we’d like to dig deeper on this and know exactly what policy in the future should be followed,” he said.
Echiverri said the authorities are estimating the amount of damage at around P1 billion. The fire has also affected hundreds of businesses, he said.
The Caloocan mayor said road rerouting will still be implemented on Monday to make sure that no one will be harmed until the area is completely out of danger.
“Rerouting from towards the north. We are awaiting final word from firemen... they are checking on the LPGs, kung safe na ang LPGs inside the building baka biglang sumabog,” he said.
Meanwhile, Caloocan Vice Mayor Edgar Erice said he had long complained about the 30-year-old building. He said the hallways were previously allowed to host kiosks made of combustible materials.
Erice also voiced fears on the possible risk to residential areas behind the building. He said they have already coordinated with the local barangay chief for evacuation efforts.
“’Yong back portion ng Grand Central, doon medyo delikado kasi may residential area na nakadikit at may gas tank doon. Wala tayong mataas na ladder kaya ‘yong mga bumbero nakatungtong lang sa rooftops ng kabahayan. Delikado na bumagsak ‘yong fire wall,” he said.
The blaze started 10:45 p.m. Friday at the ground floor of the four-storey building. Senior Fire Officer 4 Randy Resureccion said a mall security guard noticed that a shoe store on the ground floor was on fire.
Mall personnel tried to extinguish the fire, but to no avail.
Some residents living along Bustamante and San Diego Streets at the back of the mall have decided to temporarily evacuate their homes.
Fire hits Chinese school
In a related development, a blaze that hit a Chinese school in Metro Manila was declared fire out, early morning on Saturday.
The fire occurred at 6:22 a.m. at the Chiang Kai Shek College in Padre Algue, Sta. Cruz, Manila.
The BFP said the fire started inside a room on the fourth floor of the school where six Chinese teachers were staying. -- with reports from ANC; Dennis Datu and Eric Dastas, dzMM; Bettina Magsaysay, ABS-CBN News