Fire hits San Roque, cebu city: 80 houses razed, 1,000 homeless
CEBU, Philippines — A fire that raged for nearly four hours reduced 80 homes, boarding houses, and other structures to ashes and left nearly a thousand people homeless yesterday afternoon in Sitio Panting, Barangay San Roque, downtown Cebu City.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) received the alarm at 2:59 p.m. The fire was placed to second alarm at 3:05; third alarm at 3:15; fourth alarm at 3:55; and task force alpha at 4:05.
This means that fire stations and substations in other cities and towns in Metro Cebu were called to respond to the fire.
It was declared fire out at 6:58 p.m. or about four hours after the alarm was received.
The Cebu City Fire Arson Investigation Unit reported that 80 houses were totally burned, 600 families were displaced, and 26 firetrucks responded.
Initial investigation showed that residents pointed to the house of a certain Danabebs Portugal as the source of the fire.
An “automated tubig machine” at Portugal’s house was believed to have caught fire, though the information is still subject to further investigation, according to Provincial Fire Marshall Supt. Fritzie Manatad.
Manatad said around 80 houses were totally burned, leaving an estimated damage of P800,000.
A number of apartments and boarding houses occupied by students and workers, as well as commercial establishments, were also not spared.
Thankfully, no one was reported killed or injured.
One of the victims, Eric Buaya, could not hold back his tears while recalling that he returned to a burned home yesterday from the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral where he was serving as a lay minister.
Because he was serving in the Mass, he was not around when flames began engulfing their place.
Although the fire gobbled up all their family belongings, Buaya remained thankful that all his family members were safe.
Buaya called on kindhearted individuals to extend any help, especially clothes. He and other victims are now housed at the barangay gym.
Barangay councilman Perfecto Pamolarco said the victims will temporarily stay at the gym until further notice.
Jeffrey Ibones, chief of City Hall’s Department of Social Welfare and Services, initially estimated the number of affected families at 250, which translates to almost 1,000 individuals.
As of 6 p.m. yesterday, Ibones said an estimated 80 houses were affected.
He did not discuss the possibility of distributing financial aid, at least as of the moment, saying the immediate concern was relief and evacuation.
It remains to be seen whether the area will be reblocked.
Mayor Edgardo Labella was also sighted at the fire site yesterday.
Re-energizing takes time
Power was cut off in some parts of Sitio Panting after the fire burned electrical cables and meters.
Visayan Electric, in a statement, said there are processes in place that residents must comply with to ensure everyone’s safety before power could be restored in the area.
Residents whose houses were not affected by the fire but currently do not have electricity are advised to visit the nearest Visayan Electric service center (One Pavilion Mall in Banawa or the South Extension Office in Tabunok) to inform the firm that the house was not affected by the fire.
They are also advised to bring with them their latest electric bill and a photo of their house as proof.
“We will re-energize on a first come, first served basis after a thorough inspection by our crew,” the statement read.
“Please note that it will take time to re-energize the houses whose meters belong to the elevated metering centers that were affected by the fire,” it added.
As for residents whose houses were partially or fully burned, they should secure a fire marshal report from the BFP and submit this to the nearest Visayan Electric service center.
This BFP report will serve as energization clearance for residents with partially burned houses, as well as basis for updating the accounts of customers with fully burned houses.
Electrical permits may be required for partially burned houses, especially those with breakers that were affected by the fire.
Residents with fully burned houses will also need an electrical permit once they apply for a new connection.
Meanwhile, in the light of the incident, the electric utility is also reminding the public about the dangers of illegal electric connections.
“Aside from being illegal and a form of theft and punishable by law, illegal connections such as directly tapping into the main line or tapping into the electric connections of other buildings or houses, as well as tampering with electric meters can cause fires,” it said.
Meanwhile, in another fire erupted in Barangay Maguikay, Mandaue City at 5:47 p.m. yesterday.
It started on the second floor of the house owned by a certain Nick Soco.
Fire Officer 1 Terencio Lape said they were able to control the fire at 6:10 and declared it out at 6:20.
The fire left an estimated P216,000 in damages and will be subjected to more investigation. — With Le Phyllis F. Antojado and Alicia Ivy L. Chua (FREEMAN)