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16 dead in Bacolod City blaze

By Francis Allan L. Angelo and Edgar Cadagat

IT was a deadly All Souls’ Day in Bacolod City after a 3-hour blazed killed 16 persons, including several children, and gutted down more than more than 50 houses at Brgy. 19 early Monday morning.

Reports from the Bureau of Fire Prevention (BFP) in Bacolod City said the blaze started in a 2-storey boarding house owned by a certain Morita Depakakibo past 1am yesterday.

The fire, which reportedly originated from an unattended candle, spread to nearby shanties mostly made of light materials.

Fire S/Insp. Pamela Candido, BFP-Bacolod City chief, said 14 bodies were initially dug up from the area of the boarding house. Three more badly-burned bodies were recovered in the mopping up operations.

A report by Bombo Radyo-Bacolod identified 16 fatalities: Eduarda Abejero, Napolen Abejero, Nikka Amelda, Joselito Carbajosa, Carl Joshua Celiz, Analiza Celiz, Ada Pauline Celiz, Novie Chavez, Dee Jay Chavez, Jenelyn Demandar, Junifer Demandar, Joshua Demandar, Jocelyn Ninio, Roel Ninio and Rosemarie Ninio.

All casualties were tenants of Depakakibo’s boarding house.

An unidentified person was injured during the blaze.

A total of 58 houses were gutted while 3 were partially burned, according to initial reports from the BFP.

Some of the casualties were seen hugging each other, reports from RMN and Bombo-Radyo Bacolod said.

BFP investigators surmised that the victims who died failed to immediately wake up and escape the fire as they were tired after visiting the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day.

Some of the fatalities may have died in the stampede that happened as the fire spread in the houses.

“The (boarding) house was made of light materials. It seems that the house was congested, did not have a permit (to operate) and did not have the necessary safety precautions in case of fire,” Candido said in an ABS-CBN interview.

Arson probers have yet to ascertain the actual cost of the conflagration.

The fire also displaced more or less 60 families who are now staying in a gymnasium and an elementary school.

The tragedy has reached the attention of President Gloria Arroyo who ordered the Department of Social Welfare and Development to assist the victims.

The Bacolod City government and other local leaders also provided assistance to the affected residents.

In Kalibo, Aklan, a two-hour fire razed more than 400 shanties in Barangay Poblacion, Kalibo, Aklan on Saturday, leaving some 2,000 people homeless.

The fire started on C. Laserna Street around 2 p.m. and quickly spread in the squatters’ colony, the BFP-Kalibo said.

BFP authorities said 1,204 individuals from 255 families sought refuge at the Augusto D. Legaspi sports complex since Monday.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

RESIDENTS of more than 40 houses damaged by a tornado in Pototan, Iloilo the other day are appealing for help from the local government and private sector.

Reports from the Iloilo Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) said the twister destroyed 44 houses in Barangay Pajo in Pototan, Iloilo 3:30pm Wednesday.

A total of 16 houses were totally destroyed while 28 were partially damaged.

The tornado, which struck for 20 minutes, also destroyed electric distribution lines, streetlights and farms.

Two minors were among those injured during the twister attack.

According to radio reports, the residents heard a whirring sound before the tornado struck. They were surprised when the roofs of their houses were dismantled by an invisible force.

Jerry Bionat, executive officer of the PDCC, said tornadoes have occurred in the towns of Pototan, Leganes and Estancia before.

“These areas are prone to tornado strikes,” he added.

Pototan town officials are verifying the number of residents affected by the twister before declaring the area a state of calamity and provide aid to the victims.

Weather bureau PAGASA observed the spiking number of tornadoes in the country due to easy communication and reporting of the incidents.

PAGASA also observed that tornadoes that struck the country had intensities of F1 and F2 on the Fujita scale which is used to rate the intensity of a tornado by examining the damage it causes after passing over man-made structures.

F1 is a “moderate tornado” with wind speeds reaching between 117 and 180 kilometers per hour. This means the tornado can peel the surface off roofs and push cars off roads.

F2 means it is a “significant tornado” with wind speeds reaching from 181 to 252 kilometers per hour. This means it can tear off roofs from house frames, snap or uproot large trees and generate light objects as missiles.

The National Severe Storms Laboratory, a division under the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said tornadoes usually accompany tropical cyclones.

Before thunderstorms develop, a change in wind direction and an increase in wind speed produce a horizontal spinning column of air in the lower atmosphere.

When the thunderstorm comes, rising air within the system tilts the rotating air from a horizontal to a vertical position, forming a tornado.

PAGASA describes tornadoes as “small weather systems,” which could be unpredictable and could form and vanish quickly. They can also be accompanied by lightning, thunder and hale.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

VARIOUS sectors in Iloilo have joined efforts to bring relief to victims of Typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon.

The Social Action Center of the Archdiocese of Jaro has begun accepting donations of used clothing, bed sheets, food and medicines for typhoon victims.

Jaro Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo said it is time to help displaced residents of Luzon who also helped Ilonggos when Typhoon Frank hit the city and province of Iloilo in June 2008.

Lagdameo also issued an Oratio Imperata or obligatory prayer to all parishes under the Jaro Archdiocese to spare typhoon victims from other calamities.

The Iloilo Business Club, Inc. (IBC) is set to meet to discuss relief efforts for Ondoy’s victims.

“The board of directors and officers will meet on Friday to discuss whatever help we can extend to our fellows who were displaced by Typhoon Ondoy,” said Victoria Lea E. Lara, IBC executive director.

Iloilo Gov. Niel D. Tupas Sr. has requested the provincial board to allow the release of P1million from the province’s 5% calamity fund to be donated to typhoon victims.

“We cannot just watch on the sidelines and pray for the victims,” Tupas said.

Tupas also ordered the deployment of a team of doctors to Metro Manila and nearby provinces in the next few days to provide free medical services to victims of Typhoon Ondoy, especially children and elderly who are vulnerable to diseases in evacuation centers.

Initially, Governor Tupas is organizing a team of six doctors for this medical mission to lend a helping hand to overworked government and private doctors now attending to these flood victims.

“We are looking for fund sources to cover the plane tickets and food of these doctors, and if our resources will allow it, we will send a bigger team,” said Tupas.

Media outlets in Iloilo also launched their respective donation drives.

Troy J. Camarista, public relations officer of SM City mall in Iloilo, said SM Foundation, Inc. put up an Operation Tulong Express booth inside the mall.

“We accept donations whether financial or in kind such as clothing, food and medicines,” Camarista said.

Lawyer Daniel V. Cartagena, an organizer for Senator Benigno C. Aquino III, said they suspended their political activities to focus on relief efforts.

“We have asked our volunteers to gather donations which will be sent to the office of Sen. Aquino,” Cartagena said.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

PROPERTIES worth P5 million went up in smoke when a fire hit a building that used to house one of the popular cinemas along Iznart Street, Iloilo City.

According to Fire C/Insp. Rodolfo Dinaga, Iloilo City fire marshal, the blaze hit Allegro Theater building 2:15am Friday.

Dinaga said the fire may have originated from a pile of trash near the theater stage located on the second floor of the building. Dinaga added they learned that workers welded portions of the building’s trusses Thursday evening.

Dinaga said they have yet to find out the cause of the fire although they were looking at faulty electric wirings or sparks from the welding machines.

The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) and fire volunteer groups quelled the fire in one hour while the mopping up operations lasted until 6:15am.

Dinaga said the fire spread quickly because the facade of the building was made of galvanized iron and ordinary plywood.

The BFP official said the fire gobbled up an estimated P5 million worth of merchandises owned by two Korean nationals and Ilonggo traders renting the building.

Dinaga said they are awaiting the affidavits of loss of the fire victims to determine the final amount of damage.

“It will take at least five days before we can determine the actual cause of fire,” he added.

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