Death toll in Ormoc fire increases to 25
() - December 29, 2006 - 12:00am
ORMOC CITY - The death toll of the fire that hit Unitop Merchandizing Incorporated on Christmas Day rose to 25 with the death early yesterday of one of the victims who was confined at the intensive care unit of the OSPA Hospital.

Teresa Tarayo, 33, a social worker, died at around 4:00 a.m. in her bed beside her son Anton, who was also severely injured. Doctors said Tarayo succumbed to acute lung injury due to smoke inhalation. Her body now lies at the V. Rama Funeral Parlor in barangay Cogon. Anton, who is now confined at the ICU, breathes through a manual-bagging instrument. Doctors said his chance of survival is 50 percent.

Twenty-one of the dead victims have been buried yesterday, said funeral parlor owner Vince Rama. He said he personally drove his pickup vehicle in transporting the coffins to the Ormoc City Cemetery.

Meanwhile, the families of the fire victims agreed to an amicable settlement with the Unitop representatives, Bohol businessman Robert Chu and Emma Matias, the secretary of the firm's owner. During their negotiation, it was agreed that Unitop would pay each of the dead victim P135,000.

However, P10,000 of the amount will be used as funeral expenses and each family of the victims will receive at least P125,00. A partial payment of P20,000 each were already given to the victims' families yesterday.

The negotiation between the Unitop management and the families of the victims was held at the city mayor's office the other night with Mayor Eric Codilla and city financial consultant Manuel Pascual. The Unitop management first offered P50,000 to each victim, excluding the funeral expenses.

However, the victims' families disagreed and demanded a P200,000 compensation for each of them. But Chu and Matias said they would first consult their company lawyers about the demand.

After receiving a call from the alleged owner of Unitop, Chu said that the management could only give P100,000 to each of the victim because Unitop had also incurred big losses from the fire.

The victims' families did not accept the offer, prompting Codilla to ask the Unitop representatives to leave the conference room so the victims' families could discuss the offer.

When the negotiation resumed, both parties eventually agreed to the P125,000 settlement. The amicable settlement will cost Unitop P3,240,000.

Mario Corro, Ormoc City manager of the Social Security System Ormoc, offered to facilitate for the burial fees of the fire victims who are members of the SSS. He said the only requirement is the death certificates and the families of the victims will receive the P20,000 burial fees.

However, it was learned that Unitop is not continuously submitting the monthly SSS contribution to their employees. Of the six Unitop employees killed in the fire, only one is an SSS member with only a one-month contribution.

The Unitop management, however, promised to help the families of their dead employees. - Robert C. Dejon/LPM

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