Hundreds lose homes in Cebu fire

7/12/11 - CEBU CITY -- A two-hour blaze that struck Barangay Tejero, Cebu City Saturday afternoon displaced hundreds of individuals, and authorities declared it one of the worst fires to hit the city this year.

As of 10:30 p.m., Barangay Tejero Captain Jessielou Cadungog said that about 109 families or 484 individuals were affected by the fire.

Cebu City Bureau of Fire Protection Commander Anderson Comar was still investigating how much property damage the fire caused.

The flames broke out at 5:30 p.m. and forced residents to scamper for safety. Strong winds fanned the inferno that snaked into neighboring houses in the densely populated area. Most of the houses made of light materials were wiped out.

It took firefighters almost two hours, even with the help of fire trucks and volunteer brigades from different cities, to stop the flames from spreading.

Crowds of onlookers clogged the roads. A number of explosions stunned families lining up in the streets as they watched the blaze level their homes. Several residents were seen bringing Sto. NiƱo icons to pray the flames would die soon and spare their homes.

At 7 p.m., with power lines cut off, the neighborhood was almost pitch dark, except for the flames that glowed and the clouds of smoke.

A couple of civilian volunteers swam in the river in Barangay Tejero to bring hoses closer to the fire scene.

The blaze spared the Blessed Sacrament Parish Church situated a few meters away from the flames.

Residents noticed the fire team suffered ran short of water supply because the fire was huge.

The affected families will be temporarily housed in the barangay’s sports complex.

Barangay chief Jessielou Cadungog told Sun.Star Cebu the barangay will declare a state of calamity to speed up the release of calamity funds to help the victims.

Former congressman Raul del Mar also said he will give aid to the fire victims. “Our priority is to give them food and shelter for now. We will also help in rebuilding their lives,” he said.

Initial information gathered by fire officials revealed that the fire allegedly started in the house of Itsoy Dela Cruz.

A liquefied petroleum gas tank was believed to have exploded, after catching fire.

At the fire scene, 60-year-old Teresita Mariano begged for divine providence to stop the flames.

“Maluoy intawn ka, Ginoo. Hunong na intawn. Ipalayo mi sa dautan (Have mercy on us, Lord. Please stop. Keep us away from danger),” she said.

Mariano told Sun.Star Cebu she has been praying every day that a disaster like Saturday won’t strike her barangay.

“Dako nuon kayo ang sunog. Akong mga apo luoy kayo kay wala’y katulgan karon (But the fire was big. I feel sorry for my grandchildren, who won’t have any place to sleep),” she said. She can’t look forward to celebrating her birthday next week.

Another resident, Alicia Mendez, was being rescued by her relatives when she suffered an anxiety attack.

Relatives tried to console her as she was dismayed by the loss of her family’s belongings.

“Butang rana, Ma. Makita ra na ang kwarta (Those were just things, Ma. We can still find money),” her daughter said.

Another woman in her 40’s, who asked not to be named, said the fire was like a punishment to them. “Silot na ni sa Ginoo. Daghan kayo ug mga pinusilay diri. Gamay ra ganing bikil, magpinatyanay dayon (This is punishment from God. So many shootings have happened here. People try to kill one another at the slightest offense),” she said.

But Josephine Limpago, 39, who was left empty-handed as the fire quickly devoured her house, still felt happy that her family was away.

Limpago, who worked as a manicurist, had just come from work to cook food for dinner when the fire broke out.

“Maayo na lang akong mga anak wala diri. Kuyaw sila mamatay kung naa pa sila (Good thing my children were not here. They could have been killed by the fire),” she said. (Sun.Star Cebu)

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