250 houses razed

08/10/2010 - AT LEAST 250 homes were lost in a fire that hit Barangay T. Padilla, which Cebu City Fire Marshall Esmael Codilla described as the worst fire to hit the city this year.

He said the flames razed P8.5 million in properties, including 20 houses that were merely damaged. Narrow roads complicated the firefighters’ jobs, and it took them nearly two hours to get the flames under control.

Barangay Captain Michael Ralota estimated 1,500 families were displaced, but City Hall’s social welfare department has yet to verify the figure.

The Cebu City Government declared a state of calamity to hasten the release of construction materials and other aid.

Councilor Alvin Dizon, who chairs the City Council’s committee on housing, said the fire victims can rebuild their homes in the area. “If it is a private property, fire should not be a ground for eviction,” he said.

Mayor Michael Rama said he will have to check if the property is private or government-owned, but agreed with Dizon’s statement that “eviction by fire” is unacceptable.

The Cebu City Disaster Coordinating Council (CCDCC) declared Barangay T. Padilla under a state of calamity, in an emergency meeting yesterday.

City Treasurer Ofelia Oliva, who presided over the meeting as Rama’s representative, said she will sign a voucher for P5 million to cover emergency purchases of construction materials and other supplies to help the fire victims. The mayor was
attending another meeting when the CCDCC convened.

The Cebu City Fire Department received the alarm at 12:10 p.m. but quickly called for help as the flames spread.

Fire trucks from the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Volunteers Brigade, Lapu-Lapu City, Mandaue City, Talisay City, Consolacion, Minglanilla and Cebu City’s Barangays Apas, Santo Niño and Busay came to help.

There was enough water, but narrow access roads and paths hindered firefighters.

SFO2 Alikasem Espinola, one of the responding investigators, told Sun.Star Cebu the access road leading to the fire scene was only about six meters wide, so only one vehicle at a time could pass through it.

Rowdy crowds of onlookers blocked the roads.

Left with no choice, firefighters connected hoses from the fire truck just to reach the fire scene.

Sitios Sto. Niño, La Purisima and Bahaw were wiped out. Parts of Sitios BSJCO, Eagles and Freedom were lost.

Barangay Captain Ralota said the fire reportedly began in a three-storey wooden house in Sitio Santo Niño, where sparks were seen coming from the wires.

Roads

Ralota confirmed what made the firefighters’ jobs problematic.

“We have problems regarding our roads here, because the streets of T. Villa and F. Villa are privately owned,” he said.

Ralota recalled there was a move by the Cebu City Government to buy the private roads for P1.1 million, so these could be widened. But the negotiations are reportedly on hold.

City Hall bought a generator yesterday for the barangay’s sports complex, since electricity in most of T. Padilla was cut off. City Hall had to buy the unit because a generator of the Department of Public Services (DPS) has been damaged.

Because of the calamity declaration, there will be no bidding for the purchases. Oliva assured, however, that for big-ticket items, prices will be canvassed and a certification sent to the bids and awards committee that the purchase is immediately needed.

“So we will still go with the process, following the principle of transparency,” she said.

City Hall also designated people who will be responsible for the distribution of relief goods as well as finding evacuation centers for the affected families, she said.

4 centers

At least four evacuation centers were organized in the sports complexes of Barangays Day-as, Tejero, Zapatera and T. Padilla.

The police were asked to secure the families in the evacuation centers.

As of yesterday, Oliva said there were 101 police operatives deployed in the four evacuation centers, but more police and tanods will be assigned there as well.

The City Health Department will set up a mobile health clinic.

City Hall also asked the Emergency Rescue Unit Foundation (Eruf) to extend assistance.

As for the food assistance, Oliva said they City Hall teams distributed packed meals yesterday noon and last night. She said they will be providing meals to the fire victims for the next three days (Sun Star)

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