Mon, Dec 25, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Dozens feared dead as fire engulfs mall in Philippines

AP, DAVAO, Philippines

Smoke billows from a burning shopping mall in Davao, the Philippines, on Saturday.

Photo: Yas D. Ocampo / via Reuters

Philippine firefighters yesterday recovered one body from a burning shopping mall and there was “zero” chance of survival for 36 other people trapped inside the four-story building in southern Davao city, an official said.

Firefighters told distraught relatives of the 36 trapped employees of a business outsourcing company at the top floor of the NCCC Mall that nobody could survive the extreme heat and thick black smoke, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said.

“They were told that the chances of survival are zero,” she said, adding that one of those trapped might be Chinese or South Korean, based on their name.

It is unclear when firefighters can break into most areas of the mall, where the blaze was put under control yesterday morning, although smoke continued to billow from the building.

The firefighters would not stop until all those reported missing are found, Duterte-Carpio said.

Investigators would determine the cause of the fire, and the prospects of criminal lawsuits against the mall owners and officials would depend on the outcome of the investigation, said the mayor, who is the daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Duterte, the mayor and Roman Catholic Church officials went to the site and met with relatives of the trapped office employees late on Saturday and asked them to pray.

The Philippine president was photographed wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, his head bowed, at an emotional moment with the relatives.

The mall’s marketing manager Janna Abdullah Mutalib said the fire started on Saturday morning on the third floor, where clothes, appliances and furniture are sold, after a storm hit Davao and flooded parts of the city.

Except for a grocery store on the ground floor and the business outsourcing company on the top floor, the shopping areas were still closed to the public when the fire started mid-morning, preventing a bigger tragedy amid the peak Christmas shopping season.

Duterte served as Davao mayor for many years before being elected president last year.

It has been a difficult year for the tough-talking, 72-year-old leader, who faced his most serious crisis when hundreds of pro-Islamic State group extremists laid siege onto Marawi city, also in the southern third of the Philippines.

He declared martial law in the south to deal with the insurrection, which troops crushed in October.

The storm that blew out of the southern Philippines yesterday left more than 200 people dead with 144 others still missing.

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