Mandaue fire destroys 700 houses: 1,800 families left homeless
Liv G. Campo (The Freeman) - March 12, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines - At least 700 houses were destroyed by a dawn fire that devastated barangays Guizo and Mantuyong in Mandaue City yesterday.

Senior Fire Inspector Joel Abarquez, the city’s fire marshal, pegged the estimated damage at P2.4 million.

Based on the assessment of the City Social Welfare and Services Office, as of 4 p.m. yesterday 1,844 families; 908 from Mantuyong and 936 from Guizo were left homeless by the fire which started at 1:45a.m. yesterday.

Mandaue City spokesman Roger Paler, also a member of the City Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Office, said of the 700 destroyed houses, 200 were from Mantuyong while 500 were from the adjacent Guizo.

Paler said the Guizo Barangay Hall was only saved because it was across the road from houses that were destroyed.

Cat blamed

The fire reportedly started at the house of a certain Robinson Aljun, a resident of Zone 3 in Mantuyong.

“Wa man na’y suga ilang balay ka’y naputlan. Ang among nadunggan kay tungod sa kandila nga na-agian og iring unya natumba mao to nasunog,” said Leonila Simbajon, whose house is near to that of Aljun.

Simbajon immediately evacuated her house along with her two grandchildren after seeing the fire spread.

“Wa g’yud koy nadala nga butang kay pagtan-aw nako sa gawas dako na kaayo ang kayo. Mao nga ang akong duha ka apo na lang gyud ang akong gisi-guro,” Simbajon said.

Efren Cañete, 40, said it was the shouts of his neighbors that woke him up and he was able to gather all his six children and his wife to bring them to safety.

“Kayo ug kasaba sa mga tawo nala’y nipukaw nako. Gihipos dayon nako akong pamilya,” he said.

He said they were not able to save any of their belongings in their hurry to escape the flames. His house was among those destroyed.

He said the firefighters did not save even those houses along the road.

“Wa g’yud ni sudli sa bombero. Nisu’d na sila nga naugdaw na tanan,” he said, while pointing to the houses along the road.

Along with other families left homeless, the Cañetes are now camping in front of the Guizo Barangay Hall.

As of yesterday afternoon, he said they received no food allocation from the city government and that he and his neighbors had to share a pig killed in the fire so they could eat.

Another fire victim, Bobby Legoro, asked why it took so long for firefighters to respond when a fire station was near the fire scene.

Senior Fire Officer 2 Nilo Cusedo said that it took long for the residents to call the fire department and one fire victim even personally went to inform them of the fire. He said when they arrived at the fire scene, the fire was already big.

Guizo barangay councilman Jesus Bejo also said firefighters found it hard to penetrate the area since the fire was in the interior portion and the fire spread among houses quickly since most of them were made of light materials.

Majority of the affected houses were on a 9.2-hectare city-owned lot.

Third fire in the area

Paler said this was the third fire to hit the area after the fires in 2002 and 2007, but this is the biggest so far.

Mayor Jonas Cortes, in a meeting yesterday, ordered for the reblocking of the lot before the families can rebuild their houses.

Survivor Melodina Alvarez, 45, said if they cannot yet go back to their areas, they should be given a proper relocation.Alvarez and her 10 other family members, seven of them children, are staying at the grounds of the Cebu International Convention Center without a tent over their heads.

Alvarez said this is the third time she lost her house to a fire.She said she agrees with the reblocking especially as their access roads were narrow even a mini-firetruck could not enter; but the government has to do it immediately as she cannot imagine the children living for several days or maybe even weeks at the CICC grounds.

Alvarez said the fire started near her house and she was only able to save a few of their belongings, but she is thankful everyone in her family is safe.

She added that for a while she panicked after she did not see her youngest son, JP, with them when they got to safety. However, it turned out he was safe. JP was also a survivor of the 2007 fire when he was just three months old when he was saved by his older sister.

Rey Martinez of the Office of Senator Peter Cayetano was at the scene to assess the situation.Hesaid the senator will be sending help to the victims.

“We will be sending help, definitely. Cash or food stuff,” he said.

Sixth district Rep Luigi Quisumbing was among the first to bring water, porridge and meals for the victims. He also said they will also be distributing mats and other basic needs soon.

“We badly need these items, especially cooked food. Kay di man sila nakaluto diri. We need all the help we can get. The national government through DSWD immediately responded,” said Quisumbing.

Paler said they will request the Capitol and local government units to lend their tents as theirs are not enough for all 1,000 families. The city, he said, only has 24 tents, all of which were erected yesterday.

At the evacuation sites, portalets, washrooms and cooking areas were installed in several locations. 

The councils of the two barangays convened yesterday morning and declare the affected areas under a state of calamity.

Paler said the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is also set to approve a resolution authorizing the local government of Mandaue to release financial assistance to the victims. House owners will get P10,000 each while the renters and shares will receive P5,000 each.

Paler said by Monday the entire area will be fenced off to make way for landfilling and reblocking.

“We have to take a look at fire safety when they move back. And make sure we put in some firefighting system. And also make sure this won’t happen again,” said Quisumbing. — with Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon and Rowena Capistrano/BRP (FREEMAN)



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