Remaining body inside NCCC Mall Davao found

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Jan) – Authorities recovered the remains of Alexandra Moreno on Thursday, the last of the 38 missing workers, 12 days after the four-story NCCC Mall Davao caught fire last December 23.

Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force deputy team leader and spokesperson Fire Supt. Jerry Candido told MindaNews on Friday that the search and retrieval operation workers conducted a final inspection at the lobby of the Survey Sampling International (SSI) on the fourth floor where they found charred “significant remains” they suspected were Moreno’s.

He said authorities might have overlooked the remains of Moreno as they were recovered from a small crevice within the radius where they recovered the bodies of the 36 missing last December 25.

On December 24, first day of the search and retrieval operations, authorities recovered the remains of the one fire victim trapped inside the comfort room of SSI office.

Candido said Moreno’s mother confirmed the remains were his daughter’s after having recognized the keychain with a miniature Volkswagen.

He said other items recovered from the fire victim included a bag containing a passport and burned eyeglasses. Her remains were brought to Cosmopolitan Funeral Homes and were cremated afterwards.

Candido said full investigation would be completed in one or two weeks’ time, including identifying persons liable for the fire incident and what charges to be filed against them.

Firefighters took more than a day to put out the fire that was caused by an electrical short circuit at the ceiling of the mall on the third floor.

Candido said that the NCCC Mall Davao and SSI failed to comply with the fire safety requirements, which led to the death of 38 workers who were trapped inside when the fire happened on December 23.

The task force’s findings contradicted earlier claims of Honey Fritz Alagano, former Davao fire marshal of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), during the AFP-PNP press conference last December 28 that the NCCC Mall Davao and SSI managements were issued with fire safety inspection certificates (FSIC) last April 2017 and September 2017, respectively.

Alagano was among the five BFP officials relieved for issuing the establishments with FSICs even if they failed to pass fire safety standards.

The four others were Senior Fire Officer 1 Leo Lauzon, the fire safety Inspector of SSI Office; Senior Fire Officer 2 Joel Quizmundo, the Fire Safety Inspector of NCCC Mall; Senior Fire Officer 1 Roger Dumag, Chief of the Fire Safety Section of Davao City; and Inspector Renero Jimenez, the Station Commander of SIR Fire Station.

Candido said that the establishments did not comply with the fire suppression requirement after they found lapses in the setup of the mall’s fire alarm, sprinkler system, and fire exits during their investigation last week.

The SSI occupied the entire 4,000-square meter space on the fourth floor that was also accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA).

Candido said the task force found out that the sprinkler system of the third and fourth floors did not work while the alarm system was not automatic and not interconnected with SSI’s.

He said that the sprinkler system’s control valve on the third floor had no sprinkler head while the fourth floor’s was intact but installed outside the facility of SSI when it should have been installed inside.

Candido added that the fire exits were not compliant with the Fire Code of the Philippines as these were not heat and smoke-proof, the reason why workers were trapped on the fourth floor.

The task force is composed of Department of Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Fire Protection, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 11. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)