GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 23 July) – A five-year-old girl was killed while at least 123 families were rendered homeless after a huge fire hit a crowded seaside community here dawn Tuesday.
Rock Eliseo Garay, chair of Barangay Dadiangas South, said the fire occurred around 5 a.m. at a portion of Purok Islam along P. Acharon Blvd., which is located just across the city central public market.
He said a child of a market vendor identified as Bainor Putian, 5, died after being trapped inside their burning house.
An estimated 100 shanties were razed to the ground by the incident, which was declared under control over an hour later by firefighters from the Bureau of Fire Protection, he said.
Citing accounts from community leaders and residents, Garay said the fire started in one of the houses.
“It spread quite fast as the structures there were mainly made of light materials,” he told reporters.
Vendor Teng Putian, Bainor’s grandfather, said he and the victim’s father, Benjamin, left their house early for their usual spot at the nearby market.
He said Bainor was still sleeping at that time and her father was planning to return later in the morning to bring her to kindergarten school.
“Upon learning about the incident, we immediately rushed back but it was already too late,” he sadly narrated in the vernacular.
Garay said the mosque in the area and several eateries situated near the main road were spared but all other structures, which included boarding houses, toward the shoreline were gutted down.
The site, which is beside the area that was also hit by a huge fire last Dec. 28, is owned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System.
He said most of the affected residents were workers and vendors at the public market and other nearby establishments.
“We initially provided the affected residents with food assistance and their profiling is ongoing for other possible interventions from the local government,” he said.
Mayor Ronnel Rivera has sent personnel from the City Social Welfare and Development Office and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to facilitate the temporary relocation of the displaced families.
Fire Chief Inspector Reginald Legaste, city fire marshal, said the fire could have been triggered by overloaded electrical lines and caused by illegal power connections in the area.
He initially placed the damage to properties as a result of the incident at P600,000. (MindaNews)