Close to 100 families homeless: P18 million lost in Sambag 1 fire

10/05/2010 - CEBU, Philippines – Property worth at least P18 million went up in smoke yesterday morning when fire gutted 85 houses and one floor of a building of a university in barangay Sambag I, Cebu City.

Almost the entire sitio Atis along Urgello Ext. was wiped out.

In that area alone an estimated 50 houses, including several that also served as boarding houses, were gutted.

Another 35 structures, also made of light materials, were gutted in the nearby sitio Upper Kawayan.

The fourth floor of the Engineering Building of Southwestern University (SWU) also caught fire and was totally destroyed.

That floor housed 20 classrooms for the Maritime students as well as the audio-visual room.

Close to 100 families reportedly lost their homes along with several students, who are renting rooms or bed spaces.

Fire Chief Insp. Virginia Toledo, Chief of Operations of Bureau of Fire-7, said they received the report at 9:10 am.

A few minutes later, the fire was raised to Task Force Charlie as fire trucks and firemen from as far as San Fernando, Carcar and other towns also responded to the alarm.

Cebu City Fire Marshall Esmael Codilla said the fire was controlled an hour and 10 minutes after it was reported.

Senior Fire Officer I Nilo Daculan, the investigator, said that according to some residents, the fire started at the house of Caridad Sanchez in sitio Atis.

Concepcion Navarro, who also lost her house, told Daculan that shortly before the fire, there was a power outage.

Navarro said that she suddenly heard a neighbor shouting that there was a fire.

"Di pa ta makasulti kung unsa ju'y cause sa sunog. According to Navarro, nakabati kuno sila ug piti-piti which is ma-associate jud nato sa kuryente. Siya pa man so far ang cooperative kay busy kaayo ang mga tawo gahapon salbar sa ila mga butang," Daculan said.

Daculan said they will also include in their investigation the allegations of illegal wiretapping by the some residents in the place especially those who own boarding houses.

Sylvan "Jack" Jakosalem, chairman of the City Traffic Operations Management (CITOM), who went to the area, said that some residents told him that illegal wiretapping was common in the place that was hit by fire.

In an interview over TV Patrol Central Visayas, Sanchez said the fire started outside her house, but she could not figure where exactly.

Grace Genobiagon, 40, said she was about to go out of the house to send snacks for her child attending a nearby elementary school when she saw Sanchez' house near hers already ablaze.

The house was made of light materials and the fire immediately spread to her house.

"Gitabangan sa among mga silingan para mapawng nya dili na man g'yud. Naa na la'y misinggit na gawas na lang. Pagawson na lang ba labi na tong mga tiguwang. Wala jud ko'y nasalba," Genobiagon said.

She managed to save only her mini-stove and rice cooker.

"Wala mi kahibaw ug unsa ju'y hinungdan sa sunog kay kalit-kalit ra man kaayo. Mingaw kaayo man gud kay nangiskuyla ang mga estudyante nya ang kasagaran nanarbaho," she added.

Rosa Casol, 52, also one of those left homeless by the fire said, “Paglingi nako sa gawas, wa na, di na g'yud matabang kay dako na kaayo ang kayo. Wa pa gyud mi na da. Ang akong anak wala na lang nako pabalika kay ma-trap unya. Kay pagtan-aw nako, wa na…wa na g'yud, di na ma da."

Christine Ban-os, a Nursing student of SWU, could only cry after realizing she has nothing to save anymore when she rushed to her boarding house from school.

"Nasunog tanan nakong sanina, pati unifom. Ambot na lang jud unsaon ni nako ug asa ko ani paingon," she grieved.

Daculan said a certain Gliceria Garcia, an old woman, was almost trapped inside her house.

They are also verifying the report that one of their fire volunteers was taken to the hospital after collapsing while fighting the blaze.

The said volunteer was reportedly suffering from fever but still responded to the alarm.

Daculan said that the firewall nearest to SWU's Engineering Building, which stood as high as the third floor of the said building, prevented the fire from affecting the lower floors.

The students, instructors and faculty members were advised to leave the school even before the fire started eating up a portion of the building.

There were many students yesterday as the school started conducting the final examinations for the first semester.

The school's President then called for the suspension of class at all levels yesterday.

Rouel Longinos, Director of SWU's Center for Information and Publication, informed the students, parents, teachers and alumni that classes will resume today.

"Students from the College or Computer Studies, College of Engineering and Maritime College should be guided on the new room assignments. Classes of these colleges are mostly held in the Anunciacion B. Aznar Bldg. Other room assignments are posted on the bulletin boards," the announcement showed.

A Student Assistance Center was also put up at the lobby of the Medicine Bldg. to assist the students who are fire victims.

The examinations, graduation and other activities will go on as scheduled.

Toledo admitted they encountered a problem on water supply yesterday.

"Nahurot dayon ang tubig sa mga fire trucks. Layo kaayo ang hydrant, tua pa sa E-mall," she said, saying they have to connect several fire hoses together to access water.

She added that kibitzers and the narrow roads leading to the fire scene were also a problem for them. They also had a hard time controlling immediately the blaze because of the strong winds.

To stop snatchers and thieves from taking opportunity of the difficult situation yesterday, a sufficient number of policemen were deployed to the area.

Senior Supt. Melvin Ramon Buenafe, director of the Cebu City Police Office, was also at the scene.

According to barangay captain Jerry Guardo, they were having a flag ceremony when the incident happened.

"Ni rescue me dayon, kami tanan officials diri to make sure nobody will get hurt and nag allocate pod me og funds to assist the fire victims."

He also added that "the good thing about it is buntag siya nahitabo ma klaro nato ang panghitabo kaysa ngit-ngit lisod kaau basin mag connect na nuon ang fire ug daghan ang maangol."

The staff of the city's Department of Social Welfare and Development went to barangay Sambag 1 Sports Center to assist the victims and provide free meals (Freeman)

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