DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Feb) – The ill-fated 14-year-old NCCC Mall Davao is up for demolition after the City Building Official (CBO) approved the mall management’s application for a permit on February 20, nearly two months since the fire incident on December 23, 2017.
The fire, caused by an electrical short circuit at the ceiling on the third floor, left 38 people dead after they were trapped on the fourth floor. The 37 victims were call center agents of Survey Sampling International (SSI), while the other one was a key custodian of the mall.
It took firefighters more than a day to put out the fire.
CBO officer-in-charge Cirinia Grace L. Catubig told MindaNews on Tuesday the permit requires the mall management to complete the demolition within a period of 30 days from the starting date.
The mall applied for demolition last February 2 and paid the city a permit fee worth P187,854, she said.
However, Catubig said she has no knowledge about the schedule of the demolition because they leave it up to the mall management to decide when after being issued with a permit but they are required to inform the city government at least five days before they would start the demolition.
Catubig said they suggested that the building be demolished immediately as it might pose some risks and to prevent people from illegally barging into the building to scavenge for scraps.
The permit stated the demolition would commence only after the “building has been vacated and all utility lines such as electric, gas, telephone and water installations have been disconnected.”
It added that the demolition will be undertaken in accordance with Rule XV on “Protection and Safety Requirements for construction and demolition of building/structure” of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Presidential Decree (PD) 1096, or the National Building Code of the Philippines.
The combined floor area of the four-story building is 60,568 square meters, Catubig said.
Thea Padua, NCCC spokesperson and public relations manager, said there’s still no target date for demolition, pending submission of the report of the investigation conducted by the Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force. She added they are also waiting for the result of the investigation by US-based third party investigators.
As of 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Interagency Anti-Arson Task Force deputy team leader and spokesperson Fire Supt. Jerry Candido has yet to respond to inquiry regarding update of the investigation.
BFP recommends demolition
On December 25, BFP-11 director Senior Supt. Wilberto Rico Neil A. Kwan Tiu recommended the demolition of the NCCC Mall as the fire could cause the 14-year-old building to collapse.
He said the interior 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.
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.
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.
On December 24, rescuers recovered one of the 38 missing victims inside the comfort room on the fourth floor where most of the trapped workers reportedly huddled shortly after the fire broke out at 9:30 a.m. on December 23.
On December 25, Christmas Day, Kwan Tiu announced after a mass held outside the mall that rescue and retrieval operation workers recovered 36 “charred” bodies at the lobby of the SSI office on the fourth floor.
Ten days later, January 4, the last remaining body of the 38 missing was recovered in a small crack on the floor, within the area where authorities recovered remains of 36 bodies.
Candido told reporters in a teleconference on January 2 that NCCC Mall Davao and the call center tenant failed to comply with fire safety requirements as they found lapses in the setup of the mall’s fire alarm, sprinkler system, and fire exits.
The task force is composed of reoresentatives from the Department of Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Fire Protection, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 11.
The SSI occupied the entire 4,000-square meter space on the fourth floor that was also accredited by Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)