GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 6 May) – An estimated P5 million in property was destroyed after a fire razed a portion of the central public market of Surallah town in South Cotabato early Wednesday.
Sr. Insp. Rupert Christian Balicol, Surallah fire marshal, said an entire phase of the Surallah public market was burned to the ground in the huge fire that started past 3 a.m.
He said it specifically gutted down some 15 market stalls composed of dry goods, textile, rice and school supply outlets. Four other small attached stalls were also destroyed.
“Based on our initial assessment, about 25 percent of the entire market area was destroyed,” he said in a radio interview.
Balicol said they were able to immediately respond to the scene after receiving a fire call around 3:30 a.m.
He said they were able to declare a “fire out” about an hour later.
Citing results of their initial investigation, he said the fire started at the western section of the public market.
“It originated from two textile and dry goods outlets and spread quickly to the other stalls,” he said.
Balicol said the fire spread quite fast as the affected stall structures were partially made of ageing light materials.
He said another factor was the stocked dry goods and combustible items like filled liquefied petroleum gas tanks inside the stalls.
“There were actually some pyrotechnic devices in some of the stalls,” he said.
Balicol said they are currently looking at several angles, among them faulty electrical connection and arson, as the possible cause of the fire.
He said they are also looking at unattended candle as possible cause since there was a power outage in the area prior to the incident.
As to the damage, Balicol noted that their initial P5-million estimate only covers the destroyed market structures.
“We’re still waiting for the damage declarations from the affected stall owners,” he said.
Meantime, Surallah Mayor Antonio Bendita said he will immediately convene the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council on Wednesday morning to properly assess the situation.
He said they will also discuss the release of some assistance to the affected stall owners.