DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 December) – The chief of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Region 11 has recommended the demolition of NCCC Mall in Davao City after a fire that hit the four-storey structure on Saturday and killed 37 workers of a business process outsourcing firm.
BFP-11 director Senior Supt. Wilberto Rico Neil A. Kwan Tiu said the fire could cause the 14-year old mall to collapse.
“For now, I can recommend total demolition of this building,” Kwan Tiu told reporters Monday after a mass outside the mall for the 37 workers of Survey Sampling International (SSI), a business process outsourcing company, who died in the blaze.
He said the inside of the mall, including the roof, mostly caved in, which made it difficult for firefighters and responders to go deeper into the building during their operations.
The collapsed rear portion of the mall can be seen from the outside.
“The damage is so much, the entire building is totally damaged except the ground floor,” Kwan Tiu said.
The official did not give an estimate on the cost of damage pending result of the investigation.
He said all the debris from the collapsed floors looked like “pancakes” laying on top of one another while the other parts could be triggered even by a slight movement.
NCCC Mall Davao is an accredited economic zone by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority for its 4,000-square meter BPO facility on the fourth floor.
During the operations, Kwan Tiu said firefighters braved a thick black smoke that covered the entire mall and a temperature ranging from 500 to 700 degrees Celsius that was enough to melt their protective gears.
He said no one can survive under such condition.
“Hindi magsurvive ang isang tao (no one can survive) without oxygen five to seven minutes. Much more when you are inhaling carbon monoxide and cyanide from toxic gases. I think it’s just a matter of minutes before you become unconscious then the intensity of the heat, it will totally kill you because it’s around 500 to 700 degrees Celsius,” he explained.
“We tried to make holes for us to be able to ventilate and have this overheated gasses escape, so our fighters can be able to go inside,” he said.
The fire broke out on at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and reportedly originated from the furniture section of the department store on the third floor, he said.
The fire was declared under control at 8 a.m. Sunday during which responders recovered the body of a fire victim inside the BPO office’s lavatory.
At 5:15 p.m. of the same day, the fire was put out with 31 fire trucks from the neighboring provinces extending help.
The mall, the biggest mall owned by the Lim family, opened in December 2003. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)