Monday, April 07, 2014

Fire leaves 5,000 homeless

A huge night fire sent slum dwellers running for their lives and destroyed more than a thousand homes in Davao City.

The city’s skyline lit up as firefighters battled for more than five hours against flames that leapt swiftly from one shanty to another in the depressed coastal neighborhood of Isla Verde in Barangay 23-C (village 23-C) on Friday (April 4, 2014) night.

As the fire continued to blaze for hours, hundreds of houses were also burned in the neighboring villages of 21-C and 22-C.

“I’m back to zero. I don’t know how I can recover,” said grocer Norayna Serad, who lost her store and merchandise worth P100,000 that she had paid for with three years’ worth of savings from working abroad.

“Maybe I will need to go back to Kuwait and work as a maid again,” the 28-year-old said as she clutched a half-burnt Koran beside the ruins of her shop.

The blaze was put under control shortly after 1 a.m. on Saturday, but by then, about 5,000 people were left homeless, local civil defense officials said.

Children scavenged for twisted metal and corrugated iron sheets among the ruins to sell for scrap.

“These were houses made of light materials. They were all razed,” said Jimmy Martinez, an official of the civil defense office for the Davao region.

Some of the houses had rested on stilts that stuck out of the coastal waters, and firefighters said they had difficulty moving through the narrow, winding alleyways between the shanties, he said. More than a thousand families sought refuge at a government schoolhouse that escaped the blaze.

Martinez added that the slum sat on a previously vacant government lot that had been gradually settled by impoverished migrants to the city of 1.5 million people.

The blaze apparently started when an untended candle in one of the houses tipped over in the early evening, Davao fire investigator Ramil Gillado said.

A fisherman’s wife, Gina Salapuddin, watched her husband mark out with string the place where their shanty had stood, as the couple began planning for rebuilding even though they had lost practically all their possessions.

“God will provide,” the 32-year-old woman said.

The affected residents are staying in several evacuation centers in the city. The Bureau of Fire Protection is still determining the total cost of damage left by the incident.

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