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Manila fire leaves thousands homeless

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Philippine Star – as of Dec. 5, 2015 at 8:05 AM -A huge fire chased hundreds of inmates out of their cells and razed a sprawling shantytown near the Manila City Jail yesterday, leaving at least 1,000 families homeless.

Fire 12.5.2015About 500 handcuffed female prisoners were evacuated from the jail and moved on a temporary basis to a nearby chapel, as towering flames from the burning homes licked the jail’s exterior walls, said national prison bureau official Superintendent Carolina Borrinaga.

It was the second blaze to sweep through the capital’s shantytowns in as many weeks.

It is the third fire to raze the same area, also in December, according to officials. The first was in 1997 and the second in 2009.

“That was a close call. Thankfully, the firemen arrived before the fire could hit the prison,” Borrinaga said, adding the inmates would return to their cells once the fire was under control.

Yesterday’s fire razed at least 500 tin-roofed huts in the depressed central Manila district of Quiapo, leaving up to 5,000 people homeless in a community sandwiched between decrepit buildings and elevated train lines, said national fire bureau spokesman Renato Marcial.

Several firefighters fainted from the intense smoke and heat, he said, but no residents were reported hurt.

Desperate locals, armed with buckets of water, tried to douse the flames and firefighters maneuvered their hoses through a maze of narrow alleys.

Residents fled, clutching bundles of clothes, television sets and furniture.

A column of black smoke could be seen above Manila’s old quarter as dozens of fire trucks crammed into the area, snarling traffic.

The fire also set off cooking gas tanks, causing loud explosions.

“It’s a busy time for people with Christmas approaching. They’re firing up their stoves and turning on their lights,” Marcial said when asked about the possible cause of the mid-morning blaze that lasted several hours.

Fire investigators on the ground said the fire started in a two-floor house owned by Alex Cayetano at around 9 a.m.

The fire reached general alarm at past 10 a.m., and all firefighters in Metro Manila were called to respond. A rescue helicopter from the Philippine Air Force also helped extinguish the fire.

The estimated damage was pegged at around P5 million.

Also yesterday, it took more than 50 firetrucks to put out a blaze that broke out at the power room of an 18-story condominium building in Barnagay Socorro, Quezon City.

City fire marshal Jesus Fernandez said they received a call from the management of Aurora Tower at around 12:30 p.m. after they noticed an explosion in the power room, which is on the building’s 14th floor.

He said one of the motors of the building’s air conditioners overheated.

No one was injured or killed when the fire broke out. Arson investigators are still trying to determine the damage caused by the fire.

Fernandez said the Aurora Tower has complete permits. – Ghio Ong, Robertzon Ramirez, AFP


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