Jolo declares state of calamity as fire renders 26,000 residents homeless

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 26 July) — The town of Jolo in Sulu ha been placed under a state of calamity in the aftermath of the fire Tuesday that destroyed some 2,600 houses and rendered 5,200 families or 26,000 individuals homeless in two heavily populated coastal villages in Sulu’s capital town.

Commissioner Fatmawati Salapuddin of the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos described the fire as “the biggest next to the 1974 burning of Jolo town.”

The Sangguniang Bayan unanimously declared the town under a state of calamity during an emergency meeting called for by Mayor Kerkhar Tan, Vice Mayor Abdel Razi Amin told MindaNews in a telephone interview.

Amin said Busbus and Walled City are the two most populated barangays in Jolo.

Jolo Mayor Kerkhar Tan and Vice-Mayor Abdel Razi Amin present to the Provincial Peace and Order Council the updates on the fire that razed down 5200 houses of 2600 families in 13 hectares of residential area in Sulu’s capital town. The Jolo Local Government declared to town to be in a state of calamity, with more than 20% of the population affected. Bureau of Fire Protection-Jolo declared damages of immovable property to have reached P35 million pesos. Photo courtesy of Jolo Municipal Government

Amin said the fire affected a total of 13 hectares of residential área with 2,600 houses damaged, affecting 5200 families or 26,000 individuals.

The Provincial Peace and Order Council chaired by Governor Abdusakur Tan II also conferred with all other town mayors of Sulu in attendance, assessing the damages on immovable property to have reached PhP 35 million, based on the figures given by the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Jolo.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao visited Jolo to check on the evacuation centers and give assistance to the victims.

Brig. Gen. Divino Rey Pabayo, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu and concurrent co-chair of the PPOC, and Police Provincial Director Pablo Labra II also participated in the relief operations Wednesday, prior to the council meeting.

The vice mayor said evacuation centers were immediately set up at the Jolo Tennis Court which currently accommodates 300 families;  at the gymnasium of the Notre Dame of Jolo College, with Fr. Romeo Saniel, NDJC President, personally attending to the families there. Other evacuation centers were set up in Busbus, and the Provincial Port Area Management Center.

Jolo Councilor Charina Izquierdo-Isahac, also founding President of Bansag Babai, expressed concern over the welfare of women and children.  She posted in her social media account that the BFP  reported the cause of the fire as faulty electricity wiring and “overloading” as she emphasized with a hashtag, “Stop Illegal Tapping.”

The Sulu Provincial Women’s Council initiated relief operations, with Vice-Governor Nurunisah Abubakar-Tan.  “Jolo Municipal Local Government Unit is also doing its own relief operations, and the barangay leaders are all involved.  The six other barangays have already expressed their pledge of support,” Amin told MindaNews.

“There are NGOs that are trying to send help, and we really appreciate all these,” Vice Mayor Amin said.  “The six other barangays are also affected because they have to extend assistance since the victims have relatives in their respective barangays,” he added.

The Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) headed by Julkipli Ahijon, Jr. has been managing the biggest relief operations with the “biggest number of victims” as rescue teams were challenged by intermittent power failure.

The PDRRMO was earlier preparing for its upcoming activities to wind up National Disaster Resilience Month. (Frencie L. Carreon / MindaNews)