|Photo courtesy of Mark Samson, Bayan Patroller
MANILA, Philippines (6th UPDATE) - Fire razed a commercial building in Butuan City early Wednesday, killing 17 females trapped inside.
The bodies were retrieved from the building along JC Aquino-Montilla Boulevard where the Novo Jeans and Shirt store is located.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) identified the victims as:
- Rogelyn Mantubacan
- Jonalie Amor
- Judelyn Ore
- Villa Rose Dumagpi
- Ellenie Ocoy
- Prences Grace Sayre
- Anniejoy Lagura
- Mylyn Lirazon
- Pengky Despolo
- Jessie Dayuja
- Princess Mae Figueras
- Irene Baliquig
- Hazel Cabaña
- Liezel Dalaygon
- Jeba Salbigsal
- Maribel Buico
- Gladys Hope Sabila
There were a total of 20 stay-in workers sleeping at the third floor of the building when the fire struck the second floor at around 4 a.m.
Three other workers, identified as Grace Canoy, 22; Vicky Velez, 23; and Mylene Tolo, 25, managed to escape by jumping from the second floor of the burning building. They sustained slight burn injuries.
An earlier report said a lone worker was still missing, but Butuan Police chief, Senior Supt. Pedro Obaldo, said all workers have been accounted for.
Provincial fire department head, Chief Inspector Mario Palarca, said the victims could not find the emergency exit because of the thick black smoke.
The trapped workers failed to flee because the building was reportedly padlocked and the key was with the security guard outside the establishment.
Fire officials said some of the victims’ bodies were charred. Some died of suffocation.
Those who survived said they heard an explosion before the fire broke out and spread to nearby establishments.
At least 14 fire trucks responded to the fire, which reached the general alarm, and affected four stores.
Fire out was declared at around 9 a.m.
Authorities have launched an investigation to determine the liability of the owners of the establishment.
Oblando said a Taiwanese national with a Filipino business partners owned the establishment.
He said the Taiwanese national has yet to surface.
Fire officials have yet to release a report on the cause of the fire.
Meanwhile, Butuan Vice Mayor Lawrence Fortun said if investigations revealed that the workers were indeed locked inside the establishment, the building management may be penalized.
“Hypothetically, if indeed the establishment was locked inside and out, it would appear that there is already criminal negligence here. At the very least, the management could be charged with reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide as well as other civil and administrative liability,” he told ANC’s “On The Scene.”
Fortun said there were also reports from investigators that there were obstructions at the building’s fire exit, prompting the 3 survivors to jump off the second floor.
The vice mayor also said they were awaiting results of the investigation to determine if the management notified city officials of the number of people occupying the building.
“That should be unusual. They are not supposed to stay there. When they apply for a building permit, they have to declare occupancy to the city government and to the Bureau of Fire,” he said.
“Apparently, lumalabas parang may inconsistency sa number na dineclare nila with ‘yung actual na nangyari ngayon,” he added. -- with reports from Fred Dellava and Pau Atienza, dzMM; Trini Velasco and Charmane Awitan, ABS-CBN Caraga; Rod Bolivar, ABS-CBN Northern Mindanao; and Agence France-Presse