38 dead in chilling Resorts World Manila attack

Reuters, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2017 03:27 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2017 07:29 PM

Photo by Fernando Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

Authorities have recovered 38 bodies from the Resorts World Manila in Pasay City Friday, hours after a gunman went on a rampage in the casino complex, officials said.

National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Oscar Albayalde said the 38 fatalities include the gunman who was still unidentified. At least 67 others were brought to nearby hospitals after sustaining injuries, Department of Health Assistant Secretary Eric Tayag told ANC.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said most of the victims died "due to suffocation at the second floor gaming area, which had been set on fire by the perpetrator."

Police earlier said the "Caucasian-looking" male suspect barged into the casino carrying long firearms, shot an LED TV and then tried to ransack P113 million worth of chips from a casino storage room. He later committed suicide by setting himself on fire inside a room at the Maxims Hotel, police said.

Albayalde said those who died were in the casino's main gaming area.

"What caused their deaths is the thick smoke," he told reporters. "The room was carpeted and of course the tables, highly combustible."

A Resorts World Manila official said the dead included 13 employees and 22 guests.

Abella said there was no direct link to the shooting incident and the ongoing clashes between government forces and Maute rebels in Marawi City.

Police officials have ruled out terror motives, saying the man was operating alone, but eyewitnesses stand by their claim that they saw other gunmen inside the entertainment complex.

"All indications point to a criminal act by an apparently emotionally disturbed individual," Abella said. "Although the perpetrator gave warning shots, there apparently was no indication that he wanted to do harm or shoot anyone."

DEATH IN ROOM 510

Around dawn, the body of the suspected gunman was found in a hotel room in the still-smoking complex, which is close to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and an Air Force base, police said.

"He burned himself inside the hotel room 510," Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa told a media conference. "He lay down on the bed, covered himself in a thick blanket and apparently doused himself in gasoline."

The bodies of two of the victims had been taken to the Veronica funeral parlor, staff member Leni Domingo told Reuters.

Resort owner Travellers International Hotel Group Inc , a joint venture of the Philippines’ Alliance Global Group Inc and Genting Hong Kong Ltd, said authorities were still seeking details.

"We have been informed of several casualties, the number and identities of whom have yet to be determined," it said in a statement. Its shares were down 7 percent.

GUNSHOTS, PANIC

Videos posted earlier on social media showed people fleeing as several loud bangs were heard.

"Even the security personnel panicked. Maybe because of the heavy firearm, they can't put up a fight so they prioritized life and safety," Jeff Santos, a high roller at Resorts World Manila, told radio DZMM. "Definitely us patrons we did not expect that, everyone ran away."

Jeri Ann Santiago, who works in the emergency room at the San Juan de Dios hospital, said patients were suffering the effects of smoke inhalation and some had injuries such as fractures. None had gunshot wounds, she said.

The Philippines has been on heightened alert amid a crisis in the south of the country, where troops have been battling Islamist rebels since May 23.

Duterte declared martial law on the southern island of Mindanao last week and has warned it could become a haven for supporters fleeing Iraq and Syria.

Earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was closely monitoring what he described as a "terrorist" attack unfolding in Manila.

Dozens of police trucks and several huge Special Action Force vans and armored personnel carriers lined side streets near the hotel, casino and shopping mall complex as the drama unfolded.

Photo by Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Gil Yongco, 54, stood weeping in the street at around 5 a.m. His daughter had been on the second floor inside Resorts World and called her father for help because she was being suffocated by smoke.

He tried calling back but there was no answer. "I am very worried as a parent, I need to find her," he said.

Relatives of victims gathered later in a parking area could be heard crying.

Relatives wait for news outside Resorts World Manila. Photos by Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

A South Korean foreign ministry official said one South Korean died at the casino after the unidentified person was evacuated. The official said the person likely suffered a heart attack but an autopsy would be carried out to determine the cause of death.

Three South Koreans suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation or during the evacuation, the official said.

A casino worker named Julio from the third floor of the complex told DZMM radio he heard many gunshots and saw people running up the stairs from the second floor.

One man, who declined to give his name, told reporters how he and others used curtains to clamber down from the second floor.

Maintenance worker Ronald Romualdo told DZMM he saw a woman fall from an upper floor while trying to escape. "Several people were injured," he said. 

(Reporting by Manole Serapio Jnr and Neil Jerome Morales; Additional reporting by Peter Blaza, Clare Baldwin, Karen Lema, Manuel Mogato, Enrico Dela Cruz and Martin Petty in MANILA and Ju-min Park in SEOUL; Writing by Alex Richardson and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt, Andrew Heavens and Paul Tait)