GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 October) – A 78-year-old woman was killed while around 150 families were rendered homeless after a huge fire leveled down almost an entire community in a coastal village here Monday night.
City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio said the fire, which reportedly started at 8:45 pm, razed to the ground around 150 houses at a portion of a crowded residential area in Purok Lower Puting Bato in Barangay Calumpang.
She said an elderly woman identified as Leonora Mallorca was killed after the latter was trapped inside her burning house.
Mallorca’s grandson identified as Michael dela Cruz sustained burns on his arms while reportedly fleeing the scene, she said.
“Our fire trucks immediately responded to the area but it (fire) spread quite fast and engulfed almost the entire community in no time,” said the mayor, who also rushed to the scene.
Reynaldo Salubre, Barangay Calumpang chair, said the local residents initially pointed to Mallorca’s house as the alleged origin of the fire.
He said that prior to the incident, Mallorca was supposedly seen by some residents lighting a candle due to a power outage in the area.
“According to initial reports, it might have been caused by an unattended lighted candle inside Mallorca’s house that eventually tripped and caught fire,” he said.
Aided by the windy weather, Salubre said the fire spread rapidly into the other nearby houses, which were mostly made of light materials.
He said the majority of the victims, who were mostly tuna fishing and canning workers, failed to save any of their belongings.
Salubre said fire trucks and personnel from the city fire station and the volunteer fire brigade of local firm RD Corporation who responded to the scene were able to control the situation after about two hours.
“They had difficulty penetrating the inner portions of the community due to the lack of accessible roads,” he said.
Fire Officer 2 Allan Rey Imperio, investigator of the city fire station, said they were still investigating the cause of the fire but that the initial statements they gathered from several witness pointed to Mallorca’s house as the origin.
“But these statements are not yet conclusive and still subject to proper verification and investigation,” he told reporters.
Imperio said that based on their initial assessment, the incident left an estimated damage of P1.8 million.
Meantime, Custodio said she immediately ordered the release of relief assistance to the affected residents, who were evacuated by the city government to the Barangay Calumpang gymnasium and the Antonio Acharon Sports Complex.
She directed the City Social Welfare and Development Office to assess the immediate needs of the victims and the damage caused by the fire.
“We will also assess if they can be relocated later on,” the mayor added. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)