ILOILO CITY, Philippines – At least 11 establishments were destroyed in a fire that hit downtown Iloilo at the start of the Dinagyang Festival Friday night.
Witnesses said the fire started from Ledi Supermart and quickly spread in the adjacent establishments.
Reports said there were also explosions in the area where one of the food festivals was held.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog asked for help from nearby municipalities as Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel and volunteer fire brigades ran out of water.
A responding fire truck from Dueñas town also figured in a road accident in La Paz district while rushing to the city.
The BFP declared the fire under control at 10 p.m. The cause of the fire and the amount of damage to property has yet to be determined.
Around 1.5 million revelers and tourists are expected to attend this year’s Dinagyang, Iloilo’s premier festival, according to the Department of Tourism (DOT).
DOT-Region 6 director Helen Catalbas said the number of visitors could reach almost two million, taking into account those who came throughout the week.
This year’s celebration is dedicated to survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
Ben Jimena, Iloilo City tourism officer, said the festival will not only showcase Iloilo’s rich cultural heritage but the resiliency of Ilonggos amid recent calamities.
He said the festival is also a testimony of the faith of Ilonggos to the Sto. Niño.
Participants from Capiz, Aklan and Antique joined in yesterday’s Kasadyahan Festival.
These include the Masskara of Bacolod City; Saad of Leganes, Iloilo; Manggahan of Guimaras; Tribu Hugyaw Kansilay of Silay City, Negros Occidental; Pan-ay of Fort San Pedro National HS, Iloilo City; Sinadya sa Halaran of Roxas City, Capiz; Hugyaw of St. Therese College, Iloilo City; Sto. Niño Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan; Tribu Banigan of Libertad, Antique; Tribu Panublion of the Professional Electronics Institute, Iloilo City; and Busilak Pinta Flores of San Carlos City, Negros Occidental.
The Ati-ati dance competition, considered as the highlight of the festival, is set today.