President Duterte meets with kin of workers trapped in burning mall

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 December) — President Rodrigo Duterte, Mayor Sara Duterte, Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte and Davao Archbishop Romulo Valles met with families of the trapped victims in the four-storey NCCC Mall Davao late Friday night until around 3:30 a.m. Saturday when the President broke the bad news that there is “zero chance” of survival from the fire that started at around 9:30 a.m.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Romulo Valles and Monsignor Paul Cuison who are offering spiritual support to the families of victims who are trapped inside the NCCC Mall of Davao where a fire was still raging as of evening of December 23, 2017. Also in the photo are Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Valles, the Archbishop of Davao and President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) shared with reporters waiting outside Aposento restobar, the message President Rodrigo R. Duterte told the families of the victims.

Families gathered at the Aposento resto bar at the Matina I.T. Park, a few meters away from the still smoldering mall. Reporters could hear the wailing of families, a number of whom had already expected the worst scenario after their loved ones stopped sending messages or answering calls on their mobile phones.

The number of trapped workers from the third floor of the department store and the SSI call center on the fourth floor has not been disclosed but the number is believed to be between 25 and  35.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte talks to the families of victims who are trapped inside the NCCC Mall Davao where a fire was still raging as of evening of December 23, 2017. JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

Valles officiated a mass at past 11 p.m. for the families, disrupted at times by the noise from the firetrucks.

Shortly after the mass, President Duterte, Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte met with the families privately.

Fire continues to engulf the NCCC Mall Davao along MacArthur Highway corner Ma-a Road in Davao City evening of December 23, 2017. MIndaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

At noon, the NCCC management issued a statement confirming fire at the 3rd floor of the mall’s department store. “The BFP (Bureau of Fire Protection) has the situation under control and we are still verifying the extent of the incident.”

“We are currently coordinating with the authorities. However, there are no reported casualties,” it said.

NCCC has several branches in Mindanao and Palawan but the largest store is NCCC Mall Davao which opened in December 2003, (Antonio Colina IV / MindaNews)