GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 08 August) — Two American missionaries perished in an early morning fire, the third incident in less than six hours amid a heavy downpour that inundated several areas in this coastal city.
Fire investigators identified the missionaries as Jonathan Steffy and wife Roberta, both in their late 50s who lived in a rented house in Queenies Love Village in Barangay City Heights.
Fire investigator SFO1 Filamer Acub said the charred remains of the couple were discovered at the gutted house owned by a retired police officer.
It took 30-minutes for firefighters to put off the blaze that started at around 3 a.m. Damage was initially pegged at over 100 thousand pesos.
He said the remains of the couple were brought to a local funeral parlor pending notification of proper authorities and the US Embassy in Manila.
Romeo Tagpuno, a neighbor of the couple, said they were startled in their sleep by other neighbors who were screaming. He saw flames billowing out from the house rented by the missionary couple.
Another neighbor, a certain Jojo, said they tried to yell at the missionaries to wake them up but there was no response from the couple.
“We tried pounding at their gates which were closed, but it was already getting too hot that we needed to stay back until firemen arrived,” he said.
Tagpuno said Jonathan recently came from the United States, where he visited his family.
Two other conflagrations preceded the fire at the house the couple was renting, but no one was reported hurt in those two incidents.
The fire incidents were initially blamed on faulty electrical wirings triggered by a sustained heavy downpour that began early evening of Saturday, August 7.
The rains sent chest-deep flood waters into homes in some parts of the city, prompting many residents in barangays Olympog, Apopong, Bula and Lagao to evacuate to safer grounds.
Several affected families spent the night at the gymnasium in Barangay Lagao while others stayed with relatives.
Authorities have yet to assess the damage caused by the floods that submerged roads and farmlands. (Rommel G. Rebollido / MindaNews)