Baragay Luz fire razes 45 houses
Iris Hazel M. Mascardo, Alicia Ivy L. Chua (The Freeman) - January 15, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — At least 45 houses were razed by the fire that hit Sitio Sto. Niño 3 in Barangay Luz, Cebu City Monday night but authorities released a man pointed to as the one who started the blaze for lack of evidence.

“Atong gi-attempt ug turn-over sa mga police… ang police, wala man nidawat kay di man kuno mubarog ang statement sa witnesses so wala tay mabuhat pending nga makakuha tag evidence batok niya (We tried to turn him over to the police but they did not accept him because the statements of witnesses were insufficient… we did not have a choice but to release him until we can gather enough evidence against him),” said FO2 Fulbert Navarro of 29-year-old Ariel Lapis.

Quoting the witness’ statements, Navarro said Lapis is a suspected drug user who allegedly uses their house as a drug den. One witness reportedly claimed hearing Lapis saying he would burn their house down on the night of the incident. 

Authorities took Lapis into custody but released him immediately.

Navarro said they are now looking into the veracity of the information, especially that the witness reportedly only heard Lapis say he would burn the house and did not actually see him say it. 

“Wala pud sya nakakita kinsay nag-istorya so di pa gyud nato ma verify gyud…iyang basis ra is kaila sya sa tingog kuno (The witness did not see who said it so we couldn’t verify… the witness only reportedly recognized the voice as reportedly that of Lapis),” Navarro added still basing on the witness’ statement.

Dave Aranias, the barangay secretary of Barrio Luz, also said they received information that the fire started at Lapis’ house during a drug session – at the second floor where Lapis lived.

“Basi sa storya nga nadawat namo gikan sa barangay, mao kuno to, nagdagkot og drogas ba sa ibabaw sa ilang balay og mao to ang naka-cause sa sunog… dugay na na sya diha gapuyo and identified jud ni sya nga tiggamit gyud og drogas (Based on the information the barangay received, the flame that Lapis lit at his house to use drugs started the fire… he’s a long time resident in the area and is known to be a drug user),” Aranias said.

At City Hall, Mayor Edgardo Labella said the city will provide assistance to the fire survivors.

“We have enough funds, and this is a calamity… we really have to provide assistance to them,” Labella said.

The city will give P20,000 for house owners and P10,000 for renters or bed spacers. The National Housing Authority (NHA) also assured to give P30,000 to household victims.

Dr. Jeffrey Ibones, head of the city’s Department of Social Welfare Service (DSWS), said they have started providing tents, food, and water to the 95 families or at least 350 individuals who survived the fire.

The survivors are housed temporarily at the barangay hall, day care, and chapel.

Labella, meanwhile, said education on fire prevention is necessary.

“I have already directed Major Abella to institute measures for fire prevention, especially it’s already January, and March is coming, which is the fire prevention month. We have to make some preventive, precautionary measures like educating our people,” Labella said.

He said reports from previous fire incidents in the city said up to 70 percent of the incidents were caused by unattended appliances or power banks.

“I think the Bureau and Fire (department) should educate our people especially those living in the depressed areas nga dili gyud na biyaan ang mga plugs nga nakataod sa mga outlets and other appliances,” Labella said. JMO (FREEMAN)

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