Dawn blaze in Pahina Central: Seven dead in fire

(The Freeman) - May 7, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - When Ricardo Alvarez Jr. went to work Friday night he never imagined it would be the last time he would see his wife and their three children alive.

As fate would have it his wife Cindy Jane Galvan, 27, a native of Barili, their four-year-old girl, Rikcine, their two-year-old Star, and three-week-old Rain Cinrick would perish in a fire that hit sitios Tumoy and Riverside in Barangay Pahina Central, Cebu City, yesterday dawn.

His neighbor Mariz Belarmino also did not imagine spending Mother's Day without her father, stepmother, and her own daughter.

'I'll wait for you'

Ricardo, 27, who worked as housekeeper of a pension house just a few meters away from their house, said he heard the siren of a fire truck and saw the fire so he ran to their house.

He said he was positive that his family was able to escape from the fire but was suddenly just told none of them made it out and he broke down in the arms of his father, Ricardo Sr.

Ricardo said on Friday night Rikcine told him that she will wait for him to come home although he will be back in the early hours yet because she wanted to have dinner with him.

He added they were expecting to celebrate Mother's Day today, but now he does not know what to do. He is hoping somebody will help him with the burial of his family and other expenses.

Ricardo Sr. said after everything is settled he will convince his son to take a vacation to their hometown to deal with his loss.

Domingga dela Torre, a neighbor and relative of the fatalities, said they thought the family of Ricardo was able to make it out, but it later became obvious they had become trapped inside.

"Sakit kaayo ang nahitabo sa akong pag-umangkon ug mga apo sa pang-agawan kay wala g'yud namo natabang tungod sa kakalit ug kakusog sa kayo ug hagip-ot pa g'yud ang lugar," she said.

Father, Daughter lost

Meanwhile, a neighbor of the Alvarez family, Mariz Belarmino, also lost her father, Maximo Villafuerte, 50, her stepmother, Rose Abarquez, 30, and her two-year-old daughter Princess Jannah Lojera in the same incident.

Belarmino said she left her daughter to the care of her father and stepmother because she had another family and also because they wanted to have company.

"Sakit kaayo para nako ang pagsaulog sa Mother's Day tungod kay tinguha unta nako karon nga manimba ug manuroy," she said, adding she is hoping that the government will help them.

Belarmino said that her father's house had no electricity and they only used a gas lamp, although she is not certain if this caused the fire.

Jefferson Abalo, 35, was injured during the incident. His arm was dislocated after he jumped out the window to escape his burning house. Abalo said he was not able to save his things because he made sure that his mother was taken to safety first.

Senior Fire Officer 2 Lowell Opolentisima said they received the alarm at 4:44 a.m. and declared it under control at 6:01 a.m. 

Opolentisima said they have yet to determine the cause of the fire. He added firefighters had difficulty penetrating the area because of narrow roads.

Portia Basmayor, a social worker of the Department of Social Welfare and Services said 194 families composed of around 700 individuals were left homeless in Pahina Central while 40 families composed of around 200 individuals were left homeless in Barangay Pahina San Nicolas by the fire.

While Opolentisima said at least 70 houses made of light materials were destroyed by the fire Basmayor places the figure at 118 houses.

After the incident, Basmayor said they provided food to the affected families. 

Councilman Jojo Base of Pahina Central said they temporarily housed the homeless in the barangay sports complex since the elementary school will be used during the elections.

They will be meeting with the officials of the barangay to declare a state of calamity, Base said. He added the affected lot was owned by the government.

DSWD head Ester Concha said they also plan to ask permission from the owner of what used to be the Citilink Terminal to let some families temporarily stay there. She added that they cannot use the Regino Mercado Elementary School because it will also be used during the elections.

She added they will give P10,000 cash assistance to families that lost members during the fire.

Meanwhile, Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella wants to expand the probe by the firefighters because the fire scene was not too far from the Bureau of Fire Protection headquarters yet caused so much damage. — /BRP (FREEMAN)


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