DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/29 January) — One person was killed, another one was injured while 500 families were rendered homeless when fire struck a coastal village here at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, razing to the ground an estimated 300 houses in Barangays 31-D and 76-A near Piapi in Quezon Boulevard, most of them occupied by informal settlers.
Witnesses said the fire started when an alleged drunken man identified as Josel Bautista, torched his house made of light materials. The fire quickly spread to the neighboring houses, most of them also of light materials.
Initial records from the City Social Services and Development Office (CSSDO) showed that some 300 houses were destroyed by fire.
Salvacion Jimenez, 63, told Mindanews she was able to save only a few clothes.
“Most of the people here panicked and ran for their lives. Most of us here left all of our appliances, kitchen utensils because the fire was already big when we woke up at around 2:30am,” recounted Jimenez, whose two-story house was totally destroyed by fire .
Only the concrete portion of the ground floor was left.
“We will build a makeshift tent outside our house (because) the gym is very crowded,” she said.
All the houses made of light materials along the shore were razed to the ground. A few wooden boats were also partially destroyed by fire.
A resident who lives beside Bautista’s house told Mindanews that Bautista was apparently drunk as he was shouting he would burn his house.
The neighbor said Bautista appeared depressed since he had just separated from his wife.
A barangay police told MindaNews that Bautista’s neighbors tried to save him after he torched his own house, but by then the fire had spared all over his house.
Bautista’s charred body was later retrieved inside a comfort room.
Another resident told MindaNews that strong winds caused the fire to spread so fast to neighboring houses. “An elder woman was taken to the hospital because she apparently suffered a heart attack upon seeing the fire near her house. She fell to the ground .”
In a radio interview, chair Joel Landero of Barangay 31-D, said that aside from the fact that the houses were made of light materials, they were also built so closely, so the fire also spread quickly.
Landero said he could not give an estimate of the damage.
The fire victims are now temporarily staying in gymnasiums and nearby chapels.
“I’m calling on other residents to share food, clothes, sleeping mats and cooking utensils for the fire victims,” Landero appealed through radio stations.
Ruby Cleopardas, 29, told MindaNews that she was about to go to Bankerohan market to buy fruits for her store when they learned the fire was near her house.
Cleopardas said she and her neighbors immediately roused their children from sleep and fled to safer grounds, leaving their belongings.
“Had we gone earlier to the market, my two children could have died in the fire because the people panicked. Many of us saved nothing a but few clothes,” she said.
She said when the fire was put out and she returned to where her house once stood, she found her piggy bank.
Cleopardas recovered P5 and P10 coins from her piggy bank amounting to P500. “My P400 in my pocket, which was supposed to be used to buy fruits in the market, and this P500 in my piggy bank is our only money left. We don’t know how to start again and where to source funds to rebuild our house.”
Residents and scavengers scoured the area for scrap iron to sell to junk shops. (Keith Bacongco/ MindaNews)